(Host) This afternoon, the two democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor will square off in a debate and neither will say a word.
In this debate typing prowess, not oratorical skills could make all the difference.
VPR’s Steve Zind explains:
(Zind) Monday at noon John Odum will go home, make a sandwich, sit down in front of his computer and moderate a debate.
(Odum) “In Vermont this is, as far as I know, the first entirely online debate.”
(Zind) Odum will type questions on his web log, and the two Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor will type in the answers from their own computers.
Readers will be able to view the debate at Odum’s blog: greenmountaindaily.com. They won’t be able to ask questions, but they can post comments on a message board at the Website.
The candidates can be anywhere they like for the debate. One plans to be in Montpelier and the other in White River Junction.
Just as in a radio or television debate each will have a set amount of time to answer the questions.
But Odums says some of the other rules for the debate are unique to the online format.
(Odum) “If they’re slow typists, they can designate another typist, although we will have two other bloggers from the site at each location to verify that they are answering the questions themselves, that there’s no cutting and pasting.”
(Zind) Odum is an unabashed supporter of Democratic candidates and the reason he’s organizing a debate with the party’s candidates for Lieutenant Governor is to attract attention to the race.
The candidates are game.
(Tracy) “Are they going to give us time for spell check?”
(Zind) Burlington Representative John Tracy says he’s not much of a blog reader, but he wants to take part to see how well an online debate will work.
(Tracy) “It’s a new technology, it’s a new universe and as long as it’s conducted responsibly, there’s editorial integrity to it, give it a shot, why not?”
(Zind) Tracy’s challenger, Windsor County Senator Matt Dunne, points to what many say was the influence of blogs in the Connecticut primary defeat of incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman.
(Dunn) “Just the recent election of Ned LaMont in Connecticut credited Move On and Democracy for America largely through their Internet work as having helped deliver that victory. And I believe that today politicians ignore the net routes at their own peril.”
(Zind) Dunne thinks an online debate will reach people who tend to be more politically active, many of whom are young.
It’s hard to tell how many people will go online for the debate. Odum says about three hundred people a day read Greenmountaindaily.com.
He says there’s been a significant increase in the number of political web logs in Vermont this year as a result of the campaign season. But he doesn’t think they’ll go away after the election.
(Odum) “Oh, heavens! The election will be over, but then we’ve got the legislative session coming right up. There’s always stuff to talk about!”
(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.