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Friday, July 27, 2007

Republicans Fleeing YouTube Debate?

posted by on July 27 at 9:10 AM

The GOP was supposed to have a CNN/YouTube debate of its own in the near future, but Giuliani has bailed out and it looks like others might as well. Only John McCain and Ron Paul have agreed to actually show up. Two theories, from TPM readers, about why a YouTube debate might be so worrisome for some Republicans:

You realize why Rudy doesn’t like the YouTube debate format, right? He doesn’t want the NY fire fighter’s to get a clean shot at him on national TV. Maybe Newt was right. Maybe pygmies is the perfect word…


One of the thoughts that occurred to me with regards to the Democratic Youtube debate was how weird the questions for the GOP candidates could potentially be. For the Democratic debates, most of the issues that are on the table are pretty mainstream, like healthcare and Iraq and poverty and global warming, and thus its pretty difficult for the standard rank-and-file member of the democratic base to ask them in an amusing viral format like Youtube and still come out as looking too bizarre (unless they happen to be a talking snowman). As far as issues like illegal immigration and “coercive interrogation techniques” go, how does one ask questions like this in a Youtube format in an amusing way? The differences between the GOP base and the political mainstream can seem less extreme when asked by someone like Wolf Blitzer, but if presented from the standard GOP rank-and-file member of the base, it seemed like a great way to show how unhinged the GOP has become on some of these issues. Personally, I’m surprised the GOP ever got close to agreeing to this format, and once the Democratic debate happened and showed the format in action, I didn’t see how it could have been pulled off by the GOP.

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I think it's a lot simpler than either of these guys think. The answer is that the GOP candidates can't fathom why they would actually answer to the little people they intend to rule.

Posted by Gitai | July 27, 2007 9:28 AM

I had almost the exact same thought as I watched some coverage of the Dem Youtube dealy: The GOP could never pull this off, or if they did it would have to be much more carefully vetted. Actually, on second thought, the submissions being publicly available could be horribly damaging to them in the first place... Imagine searching for "questions for GOP debate" on youtube and just drinking in the hate and insanity...

Posted by christopher | July 27, 2007 9:29 AM

Gitai, your point made me think of Tom Frank's main point in his amazing amazing book "What's the Matter With Kansas." The GOP relies on a lot of smoke and mirrors. They get "the little people" to vote against their own economic interests by putting up a whole lot of political theatre- like anti-gay marriage constitutional amendments Republicans know won't go anywhere. Then they turn around, shrug and say, "Well, we tried," and then go on subsidizing oil companies and all that jazz. While this subterfuge is one that the Republicans are particularly adept at, a YouTube debate would threaten to pull the mask away. And the Republicans just can't have that. All that to say, I think you're on to something, Gitai.... :)

Posted by arduous | July 27, 2007 9:35 AM

First (almost all) the GOP skipped the NAACP forum, and now they want to skip this one. That's awesome.

My submitted question is going to be WHY only one of them attended the NAACP forum, and why are they uninterested in the minority vote. But it'll never be chosen, if the YouTube Debate even happens for them.

Posted by Ian | July 27, 2007 9:38 AM

This YouTube crap is nothing but time-wasting gimmickry that is making these “debates” not debates at all. Not good at all for the D or R candidates, because a year from now people would rather go to the dentist than see yet another stupid show – er, I mean “debate”.

Posted by raindrop | July 27, 2007 9:56 AM

GWBUSH has been cherry picking his audience for his entire two administrations. Republicans play follow the leader, everyone get in line, politics. I am surprised some republicans even said "yes" before they all said "no"... they are more the say "no" to anything new than not kind of crowd.

Posted by Phenics | July 27, 2007 10:06 AM

The Republican spin machine is going to be working in overdrive to convince people that this really doesn't matter, that it's amateurish, blah blah blah.

But when you really think about it, the only thing that's different about this debate is that the questions are in a slightly different format. They have had town hall style debates before, without any kinds of serious problems, and this is exactly the same damn thing. Heck, CNN is filtering the questions anyway, so it's not as if all of that isn't controlled to keep out the riff-raff. And even if the candidates are a bit worried, they can just as easily get members of their campaign to go out and get people to send in YouTube videos for the debate.

No, the only thing that this proves is that the Republicans are all a bunch of humourless fucktards. Campaign strategists probably blanched at the idea that their candidates would have to show even the least bit of unscripted humanity, humor and pathos, since all of the Republican candidates are rather foul and loathsome creatures anyway.

And so what if this is gimmickry? I liked the fact that the Democratic candidates were knocked off-kilter a bit by the format...

Posted by bma | July 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Again, the questions posed during the "debates" bear more similarity to the interview segment at the Miss America pageant than anything else. The YouTube debates, really, are no exception. The questions are vetted to an absurd degree to minimize the possibility of embarrassing a candidate. There's no way in hell that a New York City Firefighter is going to get his question asked.

The Republicans aren't afraid of the YouTube debates. The contenders know that they can blow off the YouTube debate without suffering politically- something that the Democrats couldn't afford to do. Only McCain, Paul, Tancredo, and the rest of the fringe will show because they need the opportunity to speak to the public in a vain attempt to salvage/kickstart their impossible campaigns. This is why Tancredo was the only Republican candidate to show up for the NAACP, and why the rest of the field felt that they could blow it off without consequences at the polls.

At their core, YouTube and the NAACP are essentially the same, as far as political value in the Republican primaries. It's a more pragmatic use of campaign resources to keep hammering primary voters with the politics of fear and ignorance.

Posted by demolator | July 27, 2007 10:59 AM

I’m sure the Republicans won’t participate in the YouTube debate for the reasons mentioned above (taking questions from actual, unvetted piss-ons, exposing their crazed, satanic “agenda” etc.), but sweet Jeebus, just reading the comments from the mouth-breathers on YouTube make me feel dumber by the second.

Call me a Liberal Elitist™ if you will, but I’d like to see an open forum that’s a much more intellectual where the candidates actually have to provide in-depth, detailed, real, non-spin answers about things like Social Security, Medicare, foreign policy, economic inequality, race relations, rebuilding our crumbling civic infrastructure, energy policy, etc, above the four-year old level.

Posted by Original Andrew | July 27, 2007 11:09 AM

Agreed with Gitai, arduous and Phenics....
...god forbid they have to answer a question for which they don't have a scripted answer.

Posted by Dianna | July 27, 2007 11:45 AM

@9: You nailed it Andrew.

We are all, R's too, missing the days when debates were intellectual.

Posted by raindrop | July 27, 2007 12:36 PM

I would however like to get a good look at some of Ron Paul's diehards. On TV. But not until he wins the nomination.

Posted by Fnarf | July 27, 2007 12:58 PM

I'm sure someone above asked this already, so apologize for repeating this again..

Does anyone know a Republican YouTube fan?

Is there *any* audience on YouTube that supports the GOP and is interested in politics?

I don't think the GOP support base overlaps at all with YouTube audiences, personally. So, yeah, count me as one of many who was surprised the concept of a GOP YouTube debate came as close as it did.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | July 27, 2007 2:03 PM

#13: Yes, there are YouTube contributors that are Republican. How arrogant of you to think otherwise.

Go to YouTube and search for Republican presidents and Republican first ladies. There are several video tributes to them.

Posted by raindrop | July 27, 2007 2:33 PM

#14: I was just askin'! I asked my right-leaning friends all over if they ever view YouTube, and none of them said they did, nor cared for the site. None of them dismissed the site either.

I'm sure there are a few, but I think their numbers pale to those who are not Republicans. It's just a guess. Nothing arrogant about that.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | July 27, 2007 7:33 PM

That's a good point about being embarrassed by the GOP base. I would think they're also scared to face questions like this one.

Posted by donn | July 27, 2007 7:48 PM

#15: OK, I admit being terse. It's just that as an R leaning (when I can) independent I grow so weary of everybody trashing the GOP as the default response about everything political.

Posted by raindrop | July 27, 2007 11:05 PM

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