How social media is revolutionizing debates

Story highlights

  • Dan Pfeiffer says a half-century of conventional wisdom about debates has been turned on its head by the rise of social media
  • Candidates and their teams look for moments that will play well and aim to shape the Twitter conversation, he says

Dan Pfeiffer is a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and served in the White House in a variety of roles, including communications director. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Presidential debates have been governed by the same norms since the first televised debate in 1960: look good, don't make a mistake, stay solid for the entire debate, and then have your campaign spin like hell as soon as it ends.

Dan Pfeiffer
Most of the political world has thought about the debates the same way since John Kennedy used a smoother TV performance to best Richard Nixon in that debate, but we have now reached a tipping point, where social media has changed how debates are conducted, prepared for, judged and spun.
    Here are four ways the Internet and social media have changed presidential debates.