In the red shorts will be Liz Mair, online communications director of the Republican National Committee. In the blue shorts will be Mike Nelson, a professor at Georgetown University who served in the Clinton White House under Vice President Gore on tech policy issues. When it comes to Twitter, both appear to be total noobs. Though the debate is scheduled to last for days, the fighters will probably be hoping for the "fail whale" (Twitter down time) after just a few hours.
The contest is a daring one for the campaigns to make an official entry into - but that's especially true for McCain. If you thought the fund raising race was lopsided, Obama's dominance on Twitter is even greater. His official account has an amazing 40k followers and friends. We haven't found an official McCain account on Twitter - but his campaign did suspend a staffer in March for posting a link on Twitter to a racially inflammatory now-pulled YouTube video criticizing Obama. McCain himself admits that he doesn't know how to use a computer (video at bottom of post) so don't expect him to be tweeting himself on topics like the neutrality of the tubes.
The debate will be hosted by Time writer and former Wonkette Ana Marie Cox, who knows how to get a few thousand followers but is too good to follow back all but 30 of them. It's hard to know how well this crew will be able to use Twitter to discuss the issues.
Throw in a hashtag (#pdfdebate for the sponsoring Personal Democracy Forum) and you've got even less than 140 characters to make your points and ask your questions. You can follow the debate via this search results page but below we're displaying the last 10 tweets about it all, too, just to give you a taste of the flavor in the hours before things begin.
It's a great idea, but the technical challenges may be insurmountable. For a more fleshed out discussion of the topics, see also the threaded conversations that will emerge over on FriendFeed.
A Peek at The Discussion
The ten most recent Tweets about the debate are: