It’s only the second time a candidate has declined to participate.
Romney’s camp cited time constraints, the Viacom-owned cable network said Monday.
It takes about 30 minutes for a candidate to participate, which each does by answering a set of questions submitted to them by children, the special’s executive producer, Linda Ellerbee, told The TV Column on Monday.
Nickelodeon has run this franchise for the past six presidential-election cycles; the seventh will be telecast Oct. 15. The special has come to loom large-ish because in some circles (gambling ones, for instance), it’s become a kind of bellwether poll. As soon as the special is telecast, Nickelodeon opens up online voting; the results will be announced Oct. 22.
Four years ago, Nickelodeon declared Barack Obama the winner of its online ballot. A franchise-record 2.2 million votes were cast in what the cable network noted is not a scientific poll. Obama received 51 percent of the vote to Republican John McCain’s 49 percent.
Ellerbee, who is also the special’s host, put out a statement in 2008, saying: “It’s important to take note of who won the ‘Kids’ Vote,’ simply because so many kids vote the way their parents will.”
In five of the past six presidential elections, the kids have correctly predicted the winner (they got it wrong in ’04, picking Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry). That’s also the only other year that a candidate has declined to participate in the Q&A special, Ellerbee noted.
“We began communicating with the [Romney] campaign on April 30 and they were very encouraging, and now, six months later, it’s: ‘Sorry, we couldn’t find time, the governor is just too busy’ — and has been too busy for the past six months,” Ellerbee told the TV Column.
“By answering kids’ questions directly, candidates show respect for kids,” Ellerbee said in Nickelodeon’s news release about the special, as though she meant it to sting.
“We are disappointed that Mitt Romney wouldn’t take the time to answer the questions, but are thrilled that President Obama participated in the special.”
Obama didn’t just agree to participate; he invited the crew members to the White House, where they taped his responses to the kids’ questions Sept. 19.
“It’s no surprise Romney decided to play hookey,” Obama’s camp said Monday in a statement about his opponent’s decision.
“Kids demand details, and I’m sure they want some answers on why Romney could increase their class sizes, eliminate their teacher’s jobs, raise taxes on their families and slash funding for Big Bird. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, ‘The dog ate my homework’ just doesn’t cut it when you’re running for president.”
The White House also said Monday in a statement: “It’s a long-standing tradition for presidential candidates to appear on Nickelodeon’s ‘Kids Pick the President’ program, and it’s a good opportunity for President Obama to speak directly to American families about his plan to keep the country moving forward, get folks back to work and strengthen the middle class.”