Robert Bluey

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has more videos on YouTube than any other candidate -- in either party. Yet the former Massachusetts governor isn’t sure he’ll participate in the CNN/YouTube debate on Sept. 17.

“We currently have seven debate invitations over an 11-day span in September that are under consideration,” Romney spokesman Kevin Madden told the American Spectator. “No final decision has been delivered at this point.”

Why would Romney, a telegenic and articulate candidate, not jump at the opportunity to appear in this historic debate?

“I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” he told the New Hampshire Union Leader, referring to a videotaped question posed during the Democratic version of the CNN/YouTube debate.

While the snowman question wasn’t exactly the highlight of the debate, it certainly didn’t demean the presidency. Laugh it off or call it stupid, but don’t use it as a litmus test.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas are the only two Republicans to commit to the YouTube debate. The rest of the Republican field, like Romney, has expressed dissatisfaction or stayed eerily silent.

The situation illustrates precisely the problem facing the right in a world constantly being shaped by technology. Unlike any other time in history, citizens today can have an impact by creating a video on YouTube or starting a fan page on MySpace. The political world is being flattened, as Thomas Friedman would say.

The growth of participatory democracy and citizen journalism is fueling some of the ambivalence among Republican advisers and political operatives. It makes things messy, and campaign pros hate “messy.” It creates unwanted distractions. It makes it harder to stay on message. But the times they are a-changin’ and everyone -- not just Democrats -- must adapt to the new world.

Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at