Friday, September 30, 2011

High-tech debate marks Florida’s future in politics

Orlando was in the national spotlight last week with a social media, tech savvy themed debate for nine Republican presidential candidates. This was in conjunction with 'Presidency 5,' a fund-raising showcase held by The Republican Party of Florida.

This debate, hosted by Fox News and Google, combined the standard moderated debate style, inner-woven with text messages and YouTube video questions. Over 18,000 questions were submitted, with approximately 100,000 votes to determine the most popular questions people want answered, making this a highly interactive debate. 

Questions and facts given by the debate moderators were often submitted via online polls and search trends through Google to identify the concerns of the general public, such as correlations between gas prices and purchasing vehicles with the best miles per gallon.

“Events like this are good for the state and good for Central Florida, and it's great to encourage party regulars to come out and show support,” said Bill McCollum, former Florida Attorney General. McCollum ran against current Florida Governor, Rick Scott, in the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Throughout the debate candidates answered questions, stated their positions on issues, and compared the actions of the Obama administration to the actions they would take if elected. A majority of the time was spent between front runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and their past actions as Governors of their respective states. 

The event was not without controversy as was exemplified with some audience members booing a question from a gay solider who recently admitted his homosexuality following the repeal of “Don't ask don't tell.”

This was the third nationally televised debate for the Republican presidential candidates for the 2012 election. With more than a year to go before the election, now is a critical time for candidates to meet with the people, get out their political message and gain personal and financial support for their campaigns.

Most of the delegates that voted at the Florida straw poll on Saturday attended this debate to help form an opinion of the candidates of their choice.

“Rick Perry has the most courage of any candidate, he is the only one to refuse an order by the Obama administration,” said Timothy Allen, a delegate from Union County Florida.

“The youth just don't participate enough in politics or care about the future of this country, this is a great opportunity to see what the candidates are all about,” said Glen Sundin, a student government officer from Brevard Community College.

This event was the opening kickoff for the “Presidency 5” showcase; which included not only the debate on Thursday, but also a CPAC fund-raising event and meet and greets on Friday, and culminating in the straw poll on Saturday. The three days of events gathered national attention, and this is the first time all three have been held at the same time. 

With the increased attention in the media and around the nation this will most certainly increase the influence of the Florida primary election in 2012.

By James Tutten

(All photos by James Tutten)

Former state Senator George Lemieux, speaking with voters before the debate in Orlando.

Media from around the nation filled the Fox News and Google media room.


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