But Don't Ask Him on YouTube...

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kaje

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Nov 19, 2005
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But Don't Ask Him on YouTube...

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.

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 Guiliani 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.

"We haven't committed to any of them yet," Madden said.

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."

The Sept. 17 Republican debate was announced last Friday by YouTube, CNN and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) , who called Monday's Democratic showdown "the people's debate." An informal "save the date" reminder was sent about a month ago to the candidates, CNN's Feist said, and individual campaigns were called shortly after Friday's announcement. Formal invitations arrived at campaigns yesterday. YouTubers can upload videos until Sept. 16.

Erin Neaves, 25-year-old mother of three, uploaded this question: "You hear a lot about supporting the troops from the Republicans, and we're not getting any kind of support from the government ..... We are getting more than 15-month deployments. We are getting cut out of our bonuses. ..... How will you support the troops?" She's a Democract and her husband serves in the U.S. military.

John King, a paramedic student at Cincinnati State, has a direct question for Giuliani about his business, Giuliani Partners. "I'm not saying that's wrong to make money off your image, but why are you keeping it such a secret -- the clients, how much they paid you, what kind of work you did for them?" asks the 24-year-old Republican.
Patrick Ruffini, former eCampaign director at the Republican National Committee who served as online adviser to Giuliani for a few months earlier this year, said it would "very problematic" if the Republican candidates declined. "What's worse -- questions from the public, many of whom are supporters, or questions from the media, who many Republicans believed are biased? This is YouTube. That's not something they'd want to snub," Ruffini said.

So far YouTube, CNN and Florida's Republican Party are staying optimistic.

"We're very hopeful that all the campaigns will get on board," said Steve Grove, head of news and politics at YouTube.

Added state Republican spokeswoman Erin VanSickle: "It's an important debate in an important battleground state that just moved its primary to Jan. 29th. In other words, we have every confidence that they will attend. They can't afford not to."

--Jose Antonio Vargas