WASHINGTON—Monday’s Democratic presidential debate fuses mainstream news media (MSM) with new media and has the potential of plowing new ground in the 2008 primary.
The hybrid CNN/YouTube debate will use questions submitted on YouTube—since 2006, a growing influence on U.S. politics--while being moderated by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. CNN is picking the questions from the 2,300 or so video submissions (UPDATE CNN is now using 3,000 number) so the event is not a totally user-generated debate. But that’s okay, because if it were entirely that, the candidates just face a kind of automated town hall. Cooper will control follow-up questions with the eight Democratic contenders and see that the pot is stirred. UPDATE: Some videos will be directed to a specific candidate, Cooper just said.
Still, technology will be a star in the debate—and candidates will have to deal with IFB’s—otherwise known as earpieces—in their ears to hear the questions. It’s a small device that can cause big problems when it does not work or falls out.
I’ll be blogging through the debate tonight. This is the fourth Democratic debate—and the first officially sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.
I’ll be watching to see if most of the rivals go after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D.N.Y.) because she is the front-runner in national polls. Her game plan will probably be just to do what she has been doing—since she has prevailed in the other joint encounters.
I’ll also see how Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) deals with this advance billing from his campaign: “Tonight, watch for Obama to deliver a forceful call for change, contrasting other candidates’ focus on old fights and yesterday’s news.’’
The campaigns have been encouraged to have interplay between candidates. The cross talk opportunities are there—but each contender will have to calculate how to jump in. Republicans have already cranked up their opposition research operations in anticipation of the debate, putting out a briefing about the Democratic front-runners Iraq policies. Here’s what Republican National Committee chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan would like asked:
“Sen. Clinton, last year you said you didn’t think it was a quote ‘smart strategy’ to set to a date certain for withdrawal from Iraq. Sen. Obama, you said you didn’t quote ‘believe that setting a date certain for the total withdrawal of US troops was the best approach to achieving our goals.’ Since then, however, both of you have reversed your positions. My question to both of you is this: in the 2004 election, your colleague Sen. Kerry was criticized for his contradictory positions on the Iraq war. How do you expect to win this election by taking a page from his playbook?”