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YouTube Debate

To debate, or not to debate?

The pressure builds on Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney to participate in the CNN/YouTube GOP debate. Former governors Mike Huckabee and Tommy Thompson have now joined Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. John McCain on the roster of debaters. For the past few days, the political blogosphere -- right and left -- has been abuzz about the debate. Will it be canned? (CNN, YouTube and the Republican Party of Florida, which is co-hosting the event, hope not. ) Will Mitt Romney show up? (Maybe, if the schedule is moved. We're hearing December. ) How about Rudy Giuliani? (Not sure.)

The online left, as represented by Zack Exley, former online strategist for Sen. John Kerry's failed 2004 White House run, is delighted with the development. Writes Exley in Huffington Post:".. walking away from this first-ever 'People's Debate' is certainly a good way to douse whatever kindling the GOP might have." (The online right, as represented by Patrick Ruffini, former online adviser to Giuliani, and David All of TechRepublican, is busy deploying its troops. SavetheDebate.com is collecting signatures for a petition, and over the weekend a Facebook group, also titled Save the Debate, has formed, now with 405 members. The Facebook page has an open letter addressed to all GOP hopefuls: "Attend the YouTube debate, and you may get a tough question or two. Don't attend, and millions of Americans will wonder if you were too afraid to answer questions from the Internet, just as Democrats were afraid to go on Fox News."

Out of the all the Republican candidates, Romney is in the most sensitive position. He has aggressively courted YouTubers -- who, according to a study by comScore, which tracks Web audience, lean more Republican than Democrat. (Michael Bassik over at techpresident writes: "Specifically, there are 3.3 million self-identified Republicans on the user-generated video site versus 3.1 million Democrats. (An additional 5 million consider themselves independent.)" As of today, Romney has 235 videos on his YouTube channel, by far more than any GOPer. His latest vid was posted on July 24, a day after the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate. His online strategists, Stephen Smith and Mindy Finn, get YouTube. Smith, in fact, has touted the YouTube-like Mitt TV on Romney's official site. Earlier this year, Romney used YouTube to attack a YouTube ad that portrayed him as a flip-flopper on abortion and gay rights.

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

By Post Editor  |  July 31, 2007; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , The Debates  
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