McCain, Giuliani commit to November debate

It appears that Republicans are going to get their chance to take questions from the YouTube nation.

The debate planned by CNN and YouTube, threatened by a scheduling conflict and some Republicans’ aversion to the format, has been moved to late November from September, and both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have committed to the event.

The debate was originally set for September in the swing state of Florida, but those plans caused a behind-the-scenes kerfuffle in the GOP campaigns, which had already contracted with Florida Republicans to hold the first debate in the state on Fox News.

Then there was the less-than-enthusiastic response by some Republicans to July’s CNN/YouTube-sponsored Democratic debate, which featured, among other things, questions from a partially animated snowman on climate change and from a man brandishing an assault rifle while asking a question about gun control.

Aside from the format, some Republicans also criticized CNN for questions that seemed culled from Democratic partisans.

CNN senior VP David Bohrman said the newsie would do the same for Republicans, selecting questions from the GOP base with an eye to help primary voters choose.

“In the Republican debate, we are going to use questions from conservatives, Republicans and the religious right as well,” he said.

Cable networks have been jockeying to land presidential forums, even as the ratings for such events have been declining. The CNN YouTube debate drew 2.6 million viewers on July 23, a slight decline from the 2.8 million that watched an earlier CNN debate on June 3.

The Florida Republican party, led by party chairman Jim Greer, initially promised Fox its first sanctioned debate in the state, considered a prize because of the decisive role Florida has played in the past two presidential elections.

Fox’s debate was scheduled for Oct. 21, but then the Florida Republicans went ahead and scheduled with CNN and YouTube for September. Giuliani’s campaign claimed a scheduling conflict, and Mitt Romney declined to commit, saying the format lacked “respectfulness.”

CNN’s Bohrman said the net had no intention of preempting Fox’s effort; it just wanted to find a date that would work for the Republican candidates.

“Our goal wasn’t to have the first debate in Florida; I’m fine waiting until the end of November,” he said.

With both Giuliani and McCain aboard, it appears more likely CNN will gain a critical mass of Republican participants. The wildcard is Romney, winner of the Iowa Straw Poll, who hasn’t yet responded.

But despite his criticisms, Romney’s campaign isn’t exactly YouTube-averse. The former Massachusetts governor has the most robust YouTube channel among Republicans with 287 posted videos.

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