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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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November 28, 2007 8:48 AM

You, me and YouTube on TV tonight

Posted by David Postman

Tonight at 5 is the CNN/YouTube debate with Republican presidential candidates. After the show, at 7 p.m., Danny Westneat and I will host a call-in show so you can talk about what you saw. You can also ask questions of our guest, GOP consultant Todd Myers. The show will be on TVW statewide and you can watch it on the Times Web site.

I can only hope that this question makes the cut:

You can see other submissions here. The questions have been vetted by CNN journalists. And they're looking for a certain sort of question.

"This debate is to let Republican voters pick from among their eight candidates," said David Bohrman, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president for CNN. "We are trying to focus mostly on questions where there are differences among these candidates."

So don't expect to see a question about gay marriage. And I'm sure this one about hemp from YouTube user bigfatpothead will be left on the digital cutting room floor.

That question likely falls into what Bohrman told the New York Times qualifies as "lobbying grenades."

"There are quite a few things you might describe as Democratic 'gotchas,' and we are weeding those out," Mr. Bohrman said.

Democrats did their YouTube debate in July. At that time, some of the major Republican candidates said they wouldn't participate when it came time for their party's show, citing a variety of reasons. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to put off the debate until now. Somehow a YouTube debate seems almost passé. If Republicans had followed up quickly, they would have been closer to the head of the curve. And their scheduling conflicts and such that put off the debate until now made the Republican frontrunners look like fuddy-duddy techno-fobes, to use a technical term.

But what Republicans have going for them is a real race. We're just weeks from the first vote of the 2008 primary season and recent days have seen increasing clashes between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza considers how the debate will play out in that environment.

Will that animosity carry over to Wednesday night's get-together? We're betting it will. And, while it will be fascinating to watch how Giuliani and Romney take shots at one another (and who gets the best of the rhetorical back and forth), the more important element of the debate will be how the other candidates react. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has made up considerable ground in Iowa thanks to his "Mr. Nice Guy" routine, and he may get another chance to cast himself as the positive alternative if Romney and Giuliani engage in an extended battle on Wednesday night.

Watch the debate, and then turn to TVW or the Times Web site. Because CNN is aiming the show at Republican voters, I hope we hear from some of the GOP faithful about how you think your candidates did. But everyone is welcome to call.

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