Pros and Cons of the CNN/YouTube Debate

When I first heard that the GOP version of the CNN/YouTube debate was in jeopardy last Thursday, I figured conservative bloggers would rally together and pressure the candidates to sign up. After supporting the Save the Debate petition and penning a column about it, I’ve found that there’s hardly a unified stance on the right. In fact, the issue is much more divisive than I ever imagined.

Hugh Hewitt, for instance, has sparred with his own guest blogger, Patrick Ruffini, over the debate. A similar scene played out today at a meeting I attended on Capitol Hill. Some conservatives believe the YouTube format is degrading to the presidency; others think Republicans would be doing irreparable damage were they to shun questions from regular Joes and Janes.

I consider some of the criticism to be valid, but I remain unconvinced that the debate is a bad thing. What has surprised me most is that the second-tier candidates — Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo and Tommy Thompson — haven’t jumped at this opening. The fact that Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney were out in front criticizing the debate gave the others vying for the nomination an opportunity to reach younger voters. Too bad they’re not seizing the momentum.

Although my fellow guest blogger Danny Carlton doesn’t see any value in the debate, I remain hopeful that it will eventually take place.

UPDATE — 4:28 p.m.: I want to apologize to Gov. Mike Huckabee, who will participate in the debate if and when it takes place. I got this note from Vincent Harris, the campaign’s online director:

The Governor has told CNN he will participate in the YouTube debate. The campaign understands the incredible opportunity YouTube gives candidates to talk directly to voters, and the Governor is a huge supporter of alternative media as seen from his weekly blogger conference calls, and numerous videos to the YouTube community.

David All can now add Huckabee to his appeal for the candidates to answer the YouTube questions regardless of whether there’s a formal debate.

Cross-posted at RobertBluey.com.

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