Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will meet in Denver, Colo., tonight for the first presidential debate of Election 2012, and through an exclusive partnership with Livestream, you'll be able to watch all 90 minutes live right here (starting at 9 p.m. ET) and follow along with our editors as we live blog the entire thing.
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Tonight's debate will easily be the most-watched political event of the campaign so far -- 2008's first presidential debate drew a television audience of 52 million people -- but will it actually make a difference when it comes to how people will vote in November? According to political scientists, debates have historically not moved the needle when it comes to presidential races. But debates have always been a source of memorable moments -- from Ronald Reagan's famous "There you go again" quip, to Al Gore's infamous sighing -- and those can be character-defining. This year, social media could be the difference-maker.
As Mashable recently explored in Gaffesplosion: The Unrelenting Hype of Modern Politics, part of our special report on the digital transformation of politics, social media has extended the half-life of political flubs.
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Four years ago, when Obama debated Republican presidential candidate John McCain, there were only a few million people on Twitter and Facebook was still smaller than MySpace in the United States. In the space of one presidential term, social media has grown up considerably, and a single misstep can go viral and spread online to millions of people in a matter of hours. Romney witnessed one of those events firsthand last year when, during a debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's onstage memory-lapse turned into one of the biggest memes of the Republican primary and possibly cost him the nomination.
It's impossible to say whether the social media attention of Perry's gaffe had a real effect on the damage it caused, but it certainly didn't help. With only about a month left before election day, neither candidate can afford an "Oops" moment.
Join us ahead of the 9 p.m. ET debate, for some live blog pre-gaming.
This story originally published on Mashable here.