After CNN and YouTube organized a fairly silly and yet seriously liberal presidential debate for the Democratic presidential candidates this summer, GOP contenders developed cold feet about placing their ambitions in the hands of these groups. When only two GOP candidates accepted invitations for a proposed CNN-YouTube debate in September, the event was called off.
In response, a set of conservative bloggers started a Website called Savethedebate.com, urging that "Republicans cannot afford to write off the Internet" and risk "denigrating" the youth vote and the way they communicate. Five GOP candidates have now agreed. The new date is Nov. 28.
These bloggers are fine conservatives, but no one should be under the illusion that writing off one Website is "writing off the Internet." That said, GOP candidates do not have the Democrats' luxury of ignoring hostile media outlets like Fox as if they do not exist. But hopefully the Republicans' reluctance to sign up may have convinced CNN to avoid the usual bombardment of questions from the left.
CNN executive David Bohrman insisted that conservatives will get their Internet video questions in for the proposed GOP debate, but conservatives are understandably wary. They didn't exactly get serious questions in to the Democrats in their YouTube turn, certainly not in the way to match the body blows Republicans will surely receive from liberals at their event.
Media bias aside, there is also no question that Republicans have a lot of work to do with the youth vote, and if mastering new technologies is part of that work, then it should be embraced with gusto. Consider how much better Republicans could be doing with new voters right now, and how important capturing young voters can be in creating a lifelong political bond. Think back to the Reagan Revolution. For a man constantly questioned as too old to be president, Ronald Reagan did a terrific job of winning young voters to his cause and keeping them for the long haul.
Gallup election-year surveys showed the Democrats winning by larger margins among younger voters (under 30s) throughout the '60s and '70s and into 1980. But along came Reagan, and all that changed. In 1984 and 1988, younger voters swung heavily into the GOP column, picking Reagan over Mondale by 20 points and George H.W. Bush over Dukakis by 26.