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updated 10/16/2012 5:51:31 PM ET 2012-10-16T21:51:31

Out from behind the safety of a podium, the presidential candidates will face a town hall format filled with voters in tonight's (Oct. 16) second presidential debate, to be held at Hofstra University in New York. The debate's interactive format could lead to more online conversations as well. And the odds are high viewers will be treated to the next hot topic on Twitter.

As usual, YouTube will live stream tonight's event, beginning at 9 p.m. ET. But for the first time, Twitter has partnered with FoxNews to post the media's newest favorite metric — TPM or tweets per minute — in real time via a tweet tracker in the lower portion of the screen on its Twitter feed @FoxNews. That means you'll be able to see tweet activity explode when one of the candidates makes a particularly catchy comment, such as Mitt Romney's "I love Big Bird" remark in the first debate. 

In addition to the two candidates, moderator Candy Crowley from CNN, the first woman serving as a  presidential debate  moderator since 1992, will share the Twitter spotlight. Already, Crowley is "crescendoing on Twitter," Adam Sharp, Twitter's government and news chief said in today's blog post. And the puns have already begun. "Candy Crowley should be allowed to punish factually incorrect answers with a sharp strike with the Candy Cane," @purmecoffee tweeted.

[ How Does Presidential Debate Twitter Record Stack Up? ]

Sharp has applied the Twitter Political Index to measure feelings about previous moderators Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz because Twitter followers seemed to be as interested in them as in the candidates. Out of a possible score of 100, Lehrer's approval rating dropped from 39 to 30 in day-after-debate results and earned him a new hashtag "@silentjimlehrer." More recently, following the vice presidential debate, Raddatz saw her approval soar from 44 to 56.

Today, Obama's index is 26; Romney's stands at 21. Twitter updates its index daily at 8 p.m. ET, but today will wait until the debate ends at 10:30 p.m. ET to post the figures. Sharp will release scores for the candidates, their running mates, and moderator Crowley on  Twitter's election hub

To prepare for tonight's debate, consider following these Twitter accounts:

  • @gov - the Twitter government team
  • @Debates - the official catch-all hashtag
  • @BarackObama and @MittRomney - the two verified candidate accounts
  • @crowleyCNN has been pretty quiet this fall, but she may tweet tonight.

You can also search for new hashtags, such as #debate. However, if a candidate or moderator utters a  headline-making phrase , you'll see it first as a spike on the FoxNews tweet tracker.

All this social activity can be daunting for viewers who struggle with multi-tasking. Amy Cole of Kentucky tweeted, "Nerd dilemma: Engage in social activities or watch the debate."

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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