Most Republican Presidential Candidates Nix YouTube Debate

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There were loads of news stories about the pioneering CNN/YouTube run debate several days ago which featured Democratic Presidential wannabies. Perhaps those stories scared away many of the Republicans who also are pining for Oval Office job:

Four days after the Democratic debate in Charleston, S.C,. more than 400 questions directed to the GOP presidential field have been uploaded on YouTube — targeted at Republicans scheduled to get their turn at videopopulism on Sept. 17.

But so far, only Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) have agreed to participate in the debate, co-hosted by Republican Party of Florida in St. Petersburg.

“Aside from those two candidates, we haven’t heard from anyone else,” said Sam Feist of CNN, who’s co-sponsoring the debate with the popular videosharing site.

Ron Paul will get some viewers. And McCain at this point needs all the viewers he can possibly reach. (Perhaps the exposure will even help him recruit a new campaign staff).

Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, both with dozens of videos on their YouTube channels, have not signed up. Neither have the rest of the Republican candidates, including Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), whose “Tancredo Takes” on his YouTube channel draw hundreds of views. Sources familiar with the Giuliani campaign said he’s unlikely to participate. Kevin Madden, Romney’s spokesman, said the former Massachusetts governor has seven debate invitations covering a span of 11 days in September.

This is the best quote of all:

In an interview Wednesday with the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Romney said he’s not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman.”

But the snowman did elicit some answers.

Perhaps HE should be brought in by Congress to question Attorney General Alberto Gonzales!

There could be several factors — and consequences — at play here:

(1) This isn’t a happy time for Republicans. The candidates CLEARLY don’t want to participate not because of fears of snowballs –but hardballs. You can’t CONTROL questions from YouTubers.

(2) The typical YouTube participant would probably veer more to the left than most of the GOP candidates. Most likely that is why many of the candidates have turned thumbs-down on the debate.

(3) In the long run, not participating could be a mistake. Once again Republicans seem to be thinking only of their base. True, that’s what matters in primaries. But in the television age these primary debates help a national audience comprised of voters who might not be part of the base form impressions of candidates.

(4) The night of the debate the story will NOT be about how Republicans participated in this New Era debate, but how many of them stayed away from it. Stories will note how much more freewheeling and populist YouTubers’ questions are. And it will give the impression that the candidates had something to fear by common (if in some cases geeky) computer users getting to ask candidates questions. It’ll fit in with the image of a White House that is refusing to turn over information to Congress. And these images could mesh and hurt the party in the long run.

(5) YouTube is generational and some younger voters will interpret this as meaning the Republican candidates were just too old fashioned and old fogeyish to participate in (or “get”) the new media.

(6) Ron Paul will continue to pick up supporters. McCain still won’t have a prayer.