Having finally watched a good chunk of the Democratic presidential debate on CNN over the weekend, I have mixed feelings about the proposed Republican You Tube debate, as do some of the candidates who are undecided about attending.
Patrick Ruffini makes a compelling argument in favor, while Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett argue that it’s a liberal set-up.
No one has been more of an advocate for conservatives competing in the new media than Hugh Hewitt. And I tend to agree with Barnett that Republicans are behind Democrats in on-line donations not because they are unwilling to use new media but because conservatives are discouraged, and no presidential candidate has emerged to inspire them yet.
However, I hate to see us ignore any opportunity to get our message out. I worked hard to use new media in the 2006 gubernatorial race, from My Space and Facebook to being the first candidate to personally blog throughout the campaign. I would have been happy for any debate opportunity in my race — I did challenge Gov. Napolitano to an on-line blog-off debate, which she and the mainstream media ignored just like they ignored our other debate requests.
Right now, the momentum is on the Democratic side. Sometimes you have to take risks in a political campaign. If I were advising a Republican candidate, I think I’d lean toward taking on the snowman. What do you think?


  1. Fear not the snowman.
    I concur with participation in the CNN/You Tube debates, but also agree with those who urge caution. No one who wants to lead the US, with all of its viewpoints and perspectives, should fear any network news organization that sponsors a debate. Governor Dean and many of the Democrats are making this mistake with respect to Fox News.
    A political leader should be able to communicate effectively, even under duress. Candidates of all parties and/or ideologies should be prepared for and be able to respond effectively to a leading or inappropriate query.
    The media, which in the past have focused on reporting the news, have in recent years endeavored to “make” news, creating controversy and animus amongst candidates, themselves and the American public. All of which they, the media, claim to serve under the banner of “Freedom of the Press”.
    America needs change in its politicians AND its journalists. Greater participation by citizens will make a difference. I’m hopeful that blogs and the internet, in general, can stimulate that meaningful change.

  2. Beyond the Snowman
    I side with Ruffini – GOP Presidential candidates have no choice but to participate in the CNN/You Tube debate. Sure it can be seen as demeaning, as silly rather than serious (answering questions from a snowman, for goodness sake), even as ‘unpresidential’ to engage in this type of forum. Of course it will be used by CNN to set up “gotcha” moments for the Republican contenders. What’s new about that? Any GOP candidate better be ready to answer tough (yes, even unfair) questions from the media. Welcome to the world of American politics. My guess is that Rudy and Mitt, who now are balking at participating, will join in when all is said and done. It is an opportunity to get the message out.
    But the question of participating in the CNN/You Tube debate is easier to answer than the bigger problem of how the GOP effectively develops the next generation of campaign strategy and tactics. What worked in 2004 simply won’t work this election cycle. The days of phone banking, costly direct mail, and traditional media campaigns are over. The Democrats are focusing on peeling off traditional GOP voters – business, values voters, the Hispanic community, and others. At the same time, the GOP base is discouraged, fragmented by infighting, and increasingly disengaged. Now it appears we are losing at new technology as well. Obama is a master of harvesting email addresses and learning to maximize Internet campaign fundraising. We can keep whining about the bias inherent in the system, about all the things that are unfair and distorted by the liberal media. In the short-run it’s easy to whine, but in the long run it is much more fun to win.
    The bottom line seems pretty simple. Either as a party we seize the opportunities of the new media and the Internet (starting with something as simple as mastering the format of one You Tube debate) or we lose – not only in ’08, but for many election cycles to come.

  3. If the debates on CNN/You Tube would elevate the debate to a level commensurate with the importance of the office the candidates are campaigning for, then I can see a value to their participation. Having been witness to the Left’s techniques and visceral hate directed at this nation’s leadership over the last 6+ years, I have little hope that the discourse will ever return to civility and respect for the office that many of us think it deserves regardless of the party in control of the White House.
    Sorry, but as I view the current situation, we are being asked to step into the sewer at their level and participate in an environment that they thrive in. It will be like fish out of water and I see little to be gained from it for those of the Republican Party. To me that simply cheapens the process and yes it does demean it’s participants. After all is said and done, each one must be able walk away with whatever credibility and integrity they brought to the process.If this is the future of political discourse in America, I want none of it. Unless the GOP can re-establish the original character and soul of the party it will certainly lose much of it’s support and simply continue to further morph into what might be termed “RedState Progressives”. Trying to convince and convert those who frequent You Tube and think CNN is “Fair and Balanced Journalism” is like asking Osama BinLaden to convert to Judaism. Simply a disaster in the making and an exercise in futility.


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