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Daily Digest: Get Ready for the CNN/YouTube Debate [UPDATE]

BY Joshua Levy | Monday, November 26 2007

Debates, Debates, Debates

  • More cowbell! The Republican CNN/YouTube debate — yes, it’s finally here! — is this Wednesday and it promises to be a rollicking good time. Really. Just watch YouTube’s promo video. For me, nothing conjures up the Republicans on YouTube like a little royalty-free “rock music,” complete with cheesy horns, cowbells, and wimpy electronic piano.

  • Last week Ariel Alexovich at the New York Times talked to CNN/YouTube debate executive producer David Bohrman, who was calling from an “undisclosed location” because, um, people are just batting down the doors to find out what videos will be shown. Borhman said that the level of creativity in the over 3,000 entries is similar to the Democratic questions, though there’s less singing. Too bad.

  • One interesting nugget from Bohrman: “There are quite a few things you might describe as Democratic ‘gotchas,’” he said about the video entries, “and we are weeding those out.” According to Alexovich, “lobbying grenades” (sounds dangerous!) like questions about abortion and gay marriage would be thrown out by CNN’s self-appointed debate experts. Wait, I’m confused. I thought gay marriage and abortion were also Republican issues? Why can’t Republicans answer those questions? And why should the Republicans and Democrats be asked different sets of questions?

  • Marty Kaplan, a former White House speechwriter who’s now at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, happened to notice that “an astonishing number of [the submissions] are heartfelt inquiries about gayness in America,” and also took issue with CNN’s strategy of weeding out the lobbying grenades. Not only does Kaplan see CNN’s gatekeeping as disrespectful to gay Republicans, but it’s evidence of CNN’s real motivations. “But if YOU don’t fit the CNN profiling division’s definition of a Republican, then no matter how personal your sexual orientation may be, no matter how original you are in the way you ask it, the CNN team will yank you from the questioner pool like cyber-crabgrass,” he writes.

  • Meanwhile, Jessica Clark writes at In These Times that, “if we’re to believe the hype” propagated by the organizers of the CNN/YouTube debates, the MTV/MySpace dialogues, and other presidential forum organizers, “this is a banner moment for unmediated political action.” It's a strong overview piece by her, looking broadly at how online participation is expanding, but not necessarily empowering people. She also talks to our own Micah Sifry, and she has some fine praise for our 10Questions project.

The Web on the Candidates

  • Inspired by TPMtv’s videoshowing Rudy Giuliani repeating “September 11” ad nauseum, WFMU, everyone’s favorite freaky free-form Jersey City-based radio station, has announced a “Rudy Giuliani 9/11 Remix Context,” for which they’ve provided audio taken from the TPM video and asked their listeners to create audio remixes. So far, the entries are mostly Giuliani clips laid over beats. They’re kind of funny, but we’ll see if any real audio geniuses step up to the plate.

  • Having graduated from the “Stuff you should never, ever blog publicly (and probably shouldn’t do in the first place)” class, the blogger(s) at Vote for Hillary blogged about a program to pay Hillary Clinton supporters to post positive comments about Clinton on political blogs. According to the post, a good example of Hillary-spam would be “Hello, this is a really interesting blog, I’m glad I stumbled upon it. I understand where you’re coming from but I really think you should check into Hillary Clinton. She’s got some really good ideas.” Riiiiiight. That looks totally legit. However, the program was soon called off, allegedly because of potential legal complications. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the slew of negative comments — I couldn’t find a positive one — below the post. [UPDATE] This site is a parody or scam; it features John Edwards' video attack on Hillary has more than a few suspicious posts. Ben Smith has also noticed something.

  • Last week Mike Huckabee’s campaign led a “Money Bomb” in which supporters were asked, Ron Paul-style, to raise a ton of cash in one day. While Huckabee ended up raising a little more than $220,000, Ron Paul supporters used the moment to try and out-raise Huckabee. As a new chart on show, they did. By the end of the day, Paul had raised about $250,000.

  • Watch out for more Paul-hauling: following their co-opting of Guy Fawlkes day on November 5th, Paul supporters are hoping to raise $10 million on December 16th, the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

  • Last week digg quietly launched its Digg the Candidates page, which is pretty simple: it lists the candidates and recently dugg posts about them and lets you digg them (on this page, “diggs” are called “friends”). It’s no surprise that, with more than 10,500 friends, Ron Paul is the most dugg; he’s been the most popular candidate on digg all year. He’s followed pretty lamely by Mike Huckabee, who has only 550 friends. With more than 5500 friends, Barack Obama is the most popular Democrat, followed by Dennis Kucinich with more than 4700.

  • Amy Schatz at the Wall Street Journal writes about -- how shall we say it gently -- some Ron Paul supporters' hyper-defensiveness about negative media coverage of Paul. "Some Paul supporters are displaying an aggressive side that seems to spill beyond advocacy into harassment of those who disagree or fail to show Dr. Paul sufficient respect," Schatz says diplomatically. Suffice it to say, many bloggers and web sites have simply banned Paul supporters from posting due to the overly aggressive behaviors of some. But it's also true that Paul has suffered from an almost total media blackout that forces his supporters to search for other methods of getting the message out.

The Candidates on the Web

  • The Washington Times’ Christina Bellantoni describes the Clinton campaign’s close relationship with the Drudge Report, claiming that Clinton leaked her third-quarter fundraising numbers to the site. It’s part of an orchestrated plan to bypass traditional media strategies and control the message more tightly. Of course, this has nothing to do with actually engaging supporters online; is this what she meant by having a “conversation” with us? (via Wired’s Threat Level.)

  • The Washington Post's Michael Shear and Jose Antonio Vargas pick apart the candidates' email campaigns, looking at the recent development of "Re:" subject lines and BlackBerry-style frankness. Yours truly gives a simply fascinating bit of vagueness: "It's all marketing. It's all cynical. When stuff stops working, you have to tap into whatever trends are there." Definitely.

Lively Up Your Monday

  • If you’re finding it hard to get your motor running this post-Thanksgiving Monday (not that we are!) you HAVE to watch these two videos. Both are promos for business in… you just have to watch them. They will immediately lift your spirits, unless you in live in certain Asian mini-states. First, try Hong Kong Will Rock You. Then move to the second course, the MDA Senior Management Rap (hat tip, TechCrunch).

In Case You Missed It…

Zephyr Teachout makes a bold claim: Mike Huckabee is running the best web campaign. He’s got the highest traffic, and the most encouragement of distributed action outside Ron Paul. He’s got the best use of user-created videos, and a loose attitude on the blog. Check out the comments for some heated responses to Zephyr’s claim.

Anniversaries and holidays elicit thoughts of family, togetherness, home cookin’, and for political candidates, e-mail fundraising. For top-polled 2008 presidential candidates, writes Kate Kaye, special days like birthdays, Halloween, and even the anniversary of the day Congress signed off on the War in Iraq, have been recently used as e-mail themes.

Last week we noticed a pretty unofficial message emanating from “Rudy Giuliaini’s” Twitter feed. “i wish someone from my campaign would actually use this.”

If you’re on Rudy Giuliani’s email list, be warned that you’re likely in it for the long haul, writes email specialist Michael Whitney. If you click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of any of Giuliani’s emails, you’re brought to, his campaign’s website. (The problem seems to have been resolved.)