Speaking too fast? E-mail me...

By Stephen W. Stromberg
Published August 6, 2004 2:05PM (EDT)

The information age has found a new way to make political debates even less like Lincoln-Douglas. A Senate hopeful in Florida periodically checked his BlackBerry during a recent debate, and while he insists that his campaign adviser was just zipping him words of encouragement, the possibility for political advisers to micromanage even brief, supposedly unscripted debates may become too appealing to ignore. The Miami Herald reports:

"In a high-tech twist to the scribbled notes politicians typically bring to the podium, U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Peter Deutsch received messages from his political consultant via BlackBerry computer during a recent live, televised debate.

"Deutsch said he always wears the palm-sized BlackBerry on his belt and checked for e-mails only during commercial breaks. He did not receive tips on oratory style or answers to tough questions, he said, but words of encouragement from consultant Mark Penn.

"'It was nothing of substance,' Deutsch said Thursday of the two e-mails he erased. 'It said, "You're doing a good job."'

"Deutsch, D-Hollywood, faced off Tuesday night against Democratic rivals Betty Castor and Alex Penelas. Officials from both campaigns said Castor and Penelas carried only written notes and blank paper to the podiums."

But don't expect this trend to catch on too quickly. Anyone who has been in a meeting with someone typing away on a tiny BlackBerry keyboard knows how annoying they can be. And such techie snobbery might not play too well in the Red states.

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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