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Six GOP candidates to hold Twitter debate. Here's how to see it.

Wednesday's Twitter debate among six GOP presidential candidates is a first. Will the 140-character format produce a series of sound bites? Or will interactivity make it more meaningful for voters?

By Staff writer / July 20, 2011

Republican candidates (L to R) Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania; Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; Texas congressman Ron Paul; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty; entrepreneur Herman Cain attend their debate June 13 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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On Wednesday, six Republicans will be duking it out in the first Twitter debate among presidential candidates.

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Tweeting – posting messages within Twitter’s 140-character limit – may seem like the ultimate form of sound-bite politics. But the popular social-media site has the potential to deliver more depth than a typical television debate, organizers and political science experts say. That’s largely because of Twitter's interactive nature and the ability to include Internet links within tweets.

“It could be very substantive because [a candidate] could say, ‘I have a 10-point plan to revive manufacturing.... Click on this site and read a 25-page paper,’ ” says Darrell West, vice president of governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “In a TV debate you might have a minute to summarize your answer, but you don’t have the Web link that enables [you to convey] other types of information.”

The debate, scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday, is sponsored by TheTeaParty.net, a national organization that supports tea party events and groups across the United States.

The candidates who will be squaring off for 90 minutes: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, and Thaddeus McCotter.

The moderators are conservative political commentator S.E. Cupp and radio talk-show host Rusty Humphries. Along with TheTeaParty.net organizers, they’ve been collecting questions tweeted from the field.

To join in the action on Twitter, follow or tweet using @140townhall. For easier viewing during the debate, organizers set up the website 140TownHall.com. There you can watch one column for the moderators’ questions and candidates’ answers. In another column, you can see the public’s tweets, slowed down to a reasonable speed for reading along.

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