GOP can­di­dates agree to YouTube de­bate; Rom­ney still crit­i­cal of fo­rum

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Eric Pfeif­fer

All but one of the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have agreed to take part in an un­con­ven­tional YouTube de­bate, over­com­ing sched­ul­ing con­flicts and con­cerns about its se­ri­ous­ness.

The lone hold­out is for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, the win­ner of this month’s non­bind­ing Iowa straw poll, and even he is ex­pected to make room in his sched­ule to par­tic­i­pate in the fall fo­rum broad­cast on CNN.

“It is great that our can­di­dates have agreed to en­gage with younger vot­ers and new tech­nol­ogy,” said Soren Day­ton, co­founder of Save the De­bate, a coali­tion of con­ser­va­tive blog­gers that pres­sured the Repub­li­can field.

The de­bate, orig­i­nally sched­uled for Sept. 17, now will take place on Nov. 28 at the Ma­haf­fey Theater in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“The later date means that more peo­ple will be pay­ing at­ten­tion, and the can­di­dates will en­gage even more peo­ple. The Save the De­bate coali­tion has turned a mis­take into a great op­por­tu­nity,” Mr. Day­ton said.

CNN, which is spon­sor­ing the de­bate with the Florida Republi- can Party, said An­der­son Cooper will be the mod­er­a­tor. Plans call for taped ques­tions no more than 30 sec­onds in length. CNN pro­duc­ers, led by Wash­ing­ton bureau chief David Bohrman, will se­lect about three dozen ques­tions for the two-hour de­bate.

Ques­tions will be ac­cepted via YouTube un­til Nov. 27. More than 1,000 ques­tions al­ready have been sub­mit­ted for con­sid­er­a­tion.

Mr. Rom­ney has been the most crit­i­cal of the de­bate. In an in­ter­view with the Manch­ester (N.H.) Union Leader, he said the for­mat was di­min­ish­ing to the stature of na­tional dis­course.

“I think the pres­i­dency ought to be held at a higher level than hav­ing to an­swer ques­tions from a snow­man,” he said in re­fer- ence to the Demo­cratic can­di­dates’ YouTube de­bate in South Carolina last month, where an an­i­mated snow­man asked can­di­dates how they would ad­dress global warm­ing.

Sources close to Mr. Rom­ney’s cam­paign, con­sid­ered one the most tech­ni­cally savvy, pre­dict he will get on board. His cam­paign has posted nearly 300 videos — the most of any can­di­date from ei­ther party — on YouTube.com, with about 700,000 unique view­ers.

David All, a Repub­li­can In­ter­net con­sul­tant who co-spon­sored the “Save the De­bate” cam­paign, said the di­a­logue be­tween con­ser­va­tive blog­gers and the can­di­dates is good for Repub­li­cans, who by all ac­counts trail Democrats in the use of new me­dia.

“This needed to hap­pen. We needed to have this dis­cus­sion,” he said. “A lot of my lib­eral friends in the bl­o­go­sphere and peo­ple I used to work with from the other side of the aisle on Capi­tol Hill were ac­tu­ally very sup­port­ive.”

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