YouTube Debate: What to Expect

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Nov 27, 2007 10:56 AM


What should we expect from tomorrow night's GOP YouTube debate?  Here are my thoughts ...

1.  Celebrity Questions -- Look for at least one or two surprise questions from celebrities. Whether it's Bono asking about poverty, or a famous conservative like Grover Norquist asking about taxes, one or two of these are bound to pop up ...

2.  "I Feel Your Pain Questions" -- Expect questions about special interests to be asked by those special interests.  A homosexual couple may ask about gay marriage, a Marine may ask about Iraq, etc. 

3.  Props and Gimmicks - ... The guy asking about high gas prices will be pumping gas at the time.  ... The guy worried about the environment will be hunting or fishing out in the woods, etc.  Yes, it's lame, but the only thing separating this event from a Town Hall meeting is that it can be shot on location, so why not make it visually appealing?

4.  Animation - Yes, there will be at least a few "Snowman" questions.  My guess is that, based on the last YouTube debate, CNN will be careful to make sure that they are as substantive as possible, though.

5.  Liberal Framing - This being CNN, expect the questions to be framed in a way that does not benefit Republicans.  Remember, in politics, the question is more important than the answer.  If you're talking about the war on terror, we probably win, but if you're talking about healthcare, we probably lose.  Expect lots of questions about "rainforest preservation," or other issues that don't traditionally benefit Republicans.

... The big question is whether or not there will be any "Gotcha" questions, asked of one specific candidate.  Will someone ask Mike Huckabee who the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan is?  Or will someone ask Rudy about Alan Placa ... or Romney about Mormonism ... or whatever ...

My guess is: YES! 

... Barring one of these unforseen question,  who is most likely to do well?

Once again, with candidates like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo still in the debate, it'll be hard for anything much to be accomplished.  Nevertheless, I think this format benefits certain personality types, just as the famous '92 Town Hall debate benefited  Bill Clinton over George Bush, 41. 

John McCain stands to do well.  As a participant on his semi-weekly blogger calls, I can attest to the fact that he is used to taking any and all questions, sometimes coming out of left field.  The only caveat is that his recent spat with CNN over the "witch" comment might create some tension.  Nevertheless, expect McCain to be on his game. 

Remember, while McCain was the first to sign-up for the YouTube debate, Mitt Romney was the one who wouldn't commit.  Fortunately for him, Romney has also been holding "Ask Mitt Anything" Town Hall's, which should have helped prepare him for this.  Still, I think there is a chance he could have a bad night simply because he views the format as beneath him, and that's bound to show.

Rudy Giuliani is more guarded by his staff, so he's not as practiced, but he's quick on his feet and his humor can be disarming.  He will probably do well.

Ron Paul is the "internet candidate," but not because he knows about the internet.  My guess is he will do just okay.

Look for Mike Huckabee to do well, and Fred Thompson, I think, could go either way ...

Obviously, one "Gotcha" question could make for a bad night for any of these candidates.  That, after all, was why a lot of conservatives opposed the YouTube debate, to begin with. 

If that occurs, all bets are off ...