The Republican YouTube Debate Is Going To Happen After All

This article from the Washington Times on the YouTube debate strikes me as indicative of what may be a small, but significant shift in the thinking of the GOP (Emphasis mine),

“The majority of Republican presidential candidates are backing off their objections to participating in the unconventional YouTube debate.

Candidates’ reservations about the seriousness of the format, which features videotaped questions from voters, and the original September date are being resolved and the field is growing, said sources close to the campaigns and debate organizers.

…Initially, only two of the 10 declared Republican candidates agreed to participate: Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The number is now at four and, the sources said, the full field could be announced as early as this week. The debate now likely will take place in November or December.

…Former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin are on board.

Multiple sources close to the discussions say it was pressure from conservative bloggers, not scheduling conflicts, that made the reluctant Republican candidates reconsider.

Two weeks ago, a number of prominent conservative bloggers launched an effort called “Save the Debate” that generated what one of the campaigns referred to as a “full-court press,” from conservative activists.

“There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the coveted 18-to-35-year-old voters,” said Robert Bluey of the Heritage Foundation, who helped initiate the online petition. “It would be such a shame if Republicans missed this opportunity.”

In a letter to the abstaining campaigns, the “Save the Debate” organizers wrote:

“As Republicans, we believe this is a serious mistake. Every Democratic candidate eagerly accepted the opportunity to answer questions from the American people via YouTube, even Hillary Clinton, the most cautious and calculating of the bunch,” it said.

“Attend the YouTube debate, and you may get a tough question or two. Don’t attend, and millions of Americans will wonder if you were too afraid to answer questions from the Internet, just as Democrats were afraid to go on Fox News.”

The Democratic field of candidates, led by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, boycotted a proposed debate that was to be aired and moderated by the Fox News Channel.

“I’m very optimistic for a debate that includes all of the candidates. That said, it’s trust but verify,” said Patrick Ruffini, a Republican blogger who spearheaded the petition and is a former consultant to the Giuliani campaign and online-campaign director for the Republican National Committee.”

As a general rule, Republican politicians have tended to view bloggers as little more than an alternative method to get out their side of the story. While we do fill that role, it has been very rare to actually see conservative bloggers influencing policy or changing the strategy of Republican politicians the way we apparently have in regard to this debate.

Maybe after losing a political war with the new media over illegal immigration, the GOP has decided it’s better to be with us than against us — although admittedly, the YouTube debate is a rather petty issue compared to that fight.

PS: Last I heard, the Duncan Hunter campaign (for whom I used to consult) had told CNN that it is committed to doing the debate. Why it’s not listed as a verified participant, I don’t know.

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