GOP front-runners reconsider the YouTube debate

Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani say they'll try to answer people's questions if CNN and YouTube schedule their debate after fundraising season.

Published July 30, 2007 10:37PM (EDT)

Last week the Washington Post reported that Republicans, unlike Democrats, aren't too interested in a people-powered presidential debate. So far, only three Republican presidential candidates -- Arizona Sen. John McCain, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson -- have signed up to participate in the Sept. 17 debate sponsored by CNN, YouTube and Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

The front-runners felt differently. Rudy Giuliani's campaign told the paper he's likely not going, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was even more blunt. "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman," he told the Manchester Union Leader (Romney was referring to this question about global warming).

But now, after getting some heat from the likes of Michelle Malkin, it seems the campaigns are reconsidering. Romney's aide Kevin Madden suggests to the New York Times that the candidate is no longer scared of snowmen -- his opposition is "not a question of format, it's a question of our travel schedule." The debate is scheduled near the end of the fundraising quarter, so naturally candidates would rather be out getting cash than answering questions.

The Times says that CNN and YouTube are working with the campaigns to find a new date; Think Progress points out that Ron Paul's campaign has officially been notified that the Sept. 17 date is off.

Malkin believes that if Republicans back out of the debate, they will be abandoning "YouTube to the moonbats and jihadists." (Huh? Did I miss the news that the Numa Numa kid came out for death to America? Is Nora the piano-playing cat working for OBL?)

But Romney's spokesman isn't so sure. "A lot of Americans would wonder whether we should be answering questions from a cartoon," he tells the Times.

Fine. But how about, you know, from the voters?

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

MORE FROM Farhad Manjoo

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