It appears that the majority of the Republican presidential candidates are opting to pass on participating in the upcoming YouTube CNN debate, scheduled for September 17. This should come as no surprise, but it seems to be true.
As a voting public our response should be simple – you don’t participate, you shouldn’t run.
Republican Candidates: Afraid to Face the YouTube Generation?
By Sarah Lai Stirland EmailJuly 27, 2007 | 12:20:01 PMCategories: Election ’08
The Washington Post reports today that to date, only two of the Republican presidential candidates have agreed to participate in CNN-and-YouTube’s-hosted September 17 presidential debate.
What a surprise.
The Republicans candidates, even by the admission of experts on their side have so far shown that they’re not entirely comfortable with the populism and technology of Web-enabled political discourse.
But I believe the issue goes deeper than that.
Most of the Republican candidates have supported President Bush’s approach to the war in Iraq — but the polls show that most Americans now oppose the war and Bush’s decision to increase the number of troops there. Thus it doesn’t seem like a great idea for the candidates to potentially expose themselves to graphic and heart-rending videos from soldiers’ relatives and others who are likely to ask very difficult questions that would cast an extremely negative light on the candidates’ policy positions.
The Post article notes that so far, only John McCain and Ron Paul have agreed to participate in the debate. McCain has obviously vigorously stood up for what he believes in and hasn’t been shy about his position on the war, and Paul opposes it. So again, it comes as no surprise that they’d agree to participate.
The Post article also notes that the leading Republican candidate New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani isn’t likely to agree to participate in the September debate. Again, this isn’t surprising. I lived in New York when Giuliani was mayor, and he’s not exactly a touchy-feely guy who responds well to other people’s opinions and feelings, which is what a lot of the YouTube election is about — how voters feel and demonstrate those feelings on video about the issues.
Yet, these candidates could be making a serious mistake.
Ratings data show that the CNN/YouTube debate received the highest viewership level for the demographic between 18 and 34 since measurement level began in 1992 for a cable news debate.
Research released earlier this year by Harvard’s Institute for Politics found that — galvanized by the war — this age group showed up at the polls in 2004 at extremely high levels.
As Carl Cannon, a writer for the inside-the-Beltway publication National Journal noted in a May edition of the magazine, “These young people are so little understood that many of the 2006 congressional campaigns ignored them utterly, although the candidates who did paid a price for their inattention.”
Update: There’s now a petition to get the Republicans to change their minds. Also, consultant David All has an emotional response to the news. And TechPresident has some interesting YouTube user stats that might persuade the candidates.