Dade: With social media and the Internet providing more ways for candidates to get out their message, are debates any less influential with voters? Or will debates now assume a different role?
Lampkin: Absolutely, less influence. With Twitter and blogs, you've got instant reaction and almost overanalysis. You say something at 11 a.m. and it's going to get a reaction from opponents by noon, it's going to be covered by online posts and bloggers immediately. The turnaround time for candidates and pundits is instantaneous.
So debates really have taken on a different meaning. They let voters see candidates in real time, how they look, their body language ... how you connect with them in the mass marketing way. The uniqueness of debates is they give you a chance to look at everybody at the same time. You look at the Herman Cains, the Thaddeus McCotters — this is their 15 minutes to break out. If you go back four years and look at [then-Republican presidential candidate] Mike Huckabee, his ability to connect with conservatives at debates is what gave him the ability for a while to compete well with [eventual Republican nominee John] McCain.
Dade: What about the post-debate spin room, then? If campaigns are constantly communicating in real time — as they no doubt will during tonight's debate — is there still a need for the rehash session following the debates?
Lampkin: Around the edges it is effective. I think other things have overtaken it. Pre-Internet and pre-24-hour news cycle, you were having these spin room discussions with reporters. Now, it's instant tweeting or blogging; most people can access the debate over the Internet and you have validators and advocates instantly weighing in. It's become diluted in a sea of activities that allow people to shift the debate instantaneously. So, we have a lot of analysis that goes on in real time that makes the spin room less and less relevant.