Iowa Politics with Jeff Stein for Mon. Jun. 24, 2019

Iowa Politics with Jeff Stein for Mon. Jun. 24, 2019

“Tweet by Tweet”

It’s a logistical challenge, almost a nightmare, really…two presidential candidate debates on successive nights…each lasting two hours…each with two sets of moderators…and each with 10 candidates. That’s in the best of circumstances.

The Democratic National Committee and the NBC networks, which are putting on the events this Wednesday and Thursday, have all that to deal with…including the anticipated complaints from candidates who won’t feel they get enough air time compared with others…and those who were left off the stage angling for their share of spotlight from the outside.

As one who’s organized and moderated smaller candidate debates, I know enough to know what a Herculean task this will be for organizers.

And now, a new wrinkle…the president is suggesting he may ‘live tweet’ the events.

You can presume that these debates will be all about why Donald Trump should not be re-elected, with each candidate angling to be seen as having the best chance of winning. Hard to do, given that each will only get about 10 minutes of air time, but that’s the goal.

In the past, the incumbent president might watch and then surrogates would send news releases or come on television to comment afterwards…rarely would the president say anything, and certainly not unless asked the next day.

But in case you had not noticed…this president operates with a different set of rules. Hence, his suggestion that he might tweet in response to what he hears said on the debate stage.

For those of us who like people to mix it up a bit, this is a tremendous development. But it’s a nightmare for NBC and the DNC. For example…do the moderators ignore what the president tweets, and stay focused on what’s happening inside the debate hall? Or do they form questions tied to what he says? That’s literally something under discussion by the sponsors, because they know their audiences will be staring at twitter feeds during the event.

And for the candidates’ representatives, it’s yet something else to address…they not only have to tweet and send news releases about what their candidate says…and rebut or tear down opponents on the stage…but also respond to the incumbent who is weighing in, in real time.

And what about the 10 who are scheduled to go on Thursday…do they comment on what’s said by the folks on Wednesday?

Hard to believe, but it’s starting to look like the debates themselves may take a back seat to the sideshow.

And once again, whether he does live tweet or not, Donald Trump has gotten inside the heads of his opponents pretty deeply. They’ve taken the bait once again.