Team Romney unveils online rapid response ahead of debate

Mitt Romney’s campaign on Wednesday unveiled its rapid response strategy ahead of the evening’s first presidential debate.

With the presidential campaigns no longer relying on press releases via email to counter arguments being made in real time on the debate stage, the Romney campaign's response strategy includes a new website, real-time updates on Twitter and Tumblr and a nationally promoted hashtag.

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The Romney campaign plans to tweet through @RomneyResponse, using the blogging platform Tumblr for longer responses and counter-arguments.

The campaign has also set up a new website specifically to act as a hub for their its response at Debates.MittRomney.com.

“This site will continue our campaign’s commitment to a multi-screen digital strategy and allow users the enhanced opportunity to engage with the debate from a computer, tablet, or mobile device,” according to an email from the campaign. “We will also post research, infographics, and video from our Rapid Response Team and feature a handful of our top Twitter users aggregating their Tweets in real time.”

The campaign is also promoting one of the top ten national trends on Twitter ahead of the first presidential debate.

Romney’s hashtag, #CantAfford4More, appears now at the top of the list of ten national trends on the left side of Twitter’s homepage. Romney will own that spot all day and can switch out the trend once during the 24-hour period.

Both presidential campaigns used Twitter’s promoted trends — a new advertising option Twitter began offering last year — for the first time during their respective nominating conventions.

Twitter allows only one promoted trend per day, so Romney’s campaign likely reserved the spot well in advance for the first debate. The debate dates were announced in late July.

According to Ad Age, promoted trends sell for between $100,000 and $120,000.

President Obama’s campaign is promoting tweets on Wednesday, meaning tweets from the president or the first lady are pinned to the top of some users’ Twitter feeds. Promoted tweets can target users by interest, demographic or search. Some of those tweets could potentially appear in searches for Romney's promoted trend, and the #CantAfford4More hashtag is already in use by Obama supporters looking to appropriate the topic to counter Romney.

Romney's digital director, Zac Moffatt, says he's not concerned about the online push-back.

“Twitter’s not about controlling the conversation, it’s about starting the conversation," Moffatt told The Hill. "I think that’s why it’s so valuable.”

Similarly, Obama's digital team has said in the past that its goal is not "winning" the Twitter conversation. But both campaigns will be watching, and looking to help guide, the conversation happening online because strategists are predicting Twitter holds the key to public opinion and the moments from the debate that the media will be talking about the following day.

“I think you’ll see the campaigns will live-tweet out the candidates’ best lines," Peter Greenberg, Twitter’s head of political advertising, told The Hill when asked about the debates. "I think you’ll see the other campaign fact-checking and sending out rebuttals and defenses of their candidates in real time.”

Also on Wednesday, Twitter launched its Event Page for the debates at Twitter.com/hashtag/debates.

The page is a stream of tweets from a variety of users about the debate that will be curated in real time by the Twitter team. Twitter hosted similar Event pages for both national conventions.

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