The Republican version of the CNN/YouTube debate has been saved. And just about every candidate is now committed to appearing before audiences on November 28. Several of the GOP front-runners had previously said they would be unable to attend a debate originally set for September because of scheduling conflicts and other reservations.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the most adamantly opposed to the YouTube format, in which users of the videosharing website could submit questions to the candidates. Romney said on C-SPAN that he hadn't watched the Democratic debate, which aired on July 23, but didn't like what he had been told about it.
"I think from what I've heard, that level of respectfulness was breached. I don't know if it makes sense to have people running for president answering questions posed from snowmen," Romney said. The snowman, Billiam, had asked the Democratic candidates what they planned to do about global warming, an important query to pose when you're made out of snow.
The younger and more Web-savvy arm of the Republican Party was miffed that any of the candidates, especially Romney, would be resistant to appear in a debate that was viewed so positively on the Democratic side. Romney's campaign has posted more videos on YouTube than any other Republican candidate.
Patrick Ruffini, a Republican online strategist, and others created a website called SavetheDebate.com urging Republicans to sign a petition to encourage GOP candidates to participate in the debate. They also created a group on Facebook that attracted about 600 users. As they received more support, candidates seemed less shy about participating.
Rep. Ron Paul, who is immensely popular on the Internet, and Sen. John McCain were the first to originally commit. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee created a YouTube video expressing his support for the format of this debate and scoffed at those who were against it.
The new date was settled upon yesterday and even former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is slated to appear. "It's very encouraging that the candidates have come around. It shows that they are willing to compete and willing to win online," Ruffini said.
The only one still not entirely committed is Romney. However, if he listens to the advice from Billiam the snowman, he'll "lighten up slightly" and join the others and participate.
Since the debate has been officially "saved," Ruffini and other conservative activists have changed the focus of their Web campaign. They are now trying to get more conservatives to submit questions to the candidates via YouTube.
Rob Bluey, a conservative blogger for the Heritage Foundation, explained that if every question on Iraq is negative, the Republican candidates wouldn't really be depicted in a positive light. If more questions are added to the mix, CNN has a more diverse set to pick from.
Bluey also said by filming some questions, conservatives may be able to shake off a stereotype.
"I think there is this perception that conservatives are really far behind and really don't understand the Web 2.0 technology," Bluey said.
Perhaps this could be changed by the now resuscitated Republican CNN/YouTube debate.
By Nikki Schwab