YOUTUBE, TAKE TWO Few GOP Candidates Commit to Debate

McCain Adviser Trims Advertising Strategy
Friday, July 27, 2007

YOUTUBE, TAKE TWO Few GOP Candidates Commit to Debate

Four days after the Democratic debate in Charleston, S.C., more than 400 questions directed to the GOP presidential field have been uploaded on YouTube, as Republicans are scheduled to take their turn at video-populism on Sept. 17.

But only Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) have agreed to participate in the debate, co-hosted by the Republican Party of Florida in St. Petersburg.

"Aside from those two candidates, we haven't heard from anyone else," said Sam Feist of CNN, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the popular video-sharing site.

Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, both with dozens of videos on their YouTube channels, have not signed up. Neither have the rest of the Republican candidates, including Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), whose "Tancredo Takes" on his YouTube channel draw hundreds of views. Sources familiar with the Giuliani campaign said the former New York mayor is unlikely to participate. Kevin Madden, Romney's spokesman, said the former Massachusetts governor has seven debate invitations over a span of 11 days in September.

"We haven't committed to any of them yet," Madden said.

In an interview Wednesday with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Romney said he's not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

The Sept. 17 Republican debate was announced last Friday by YouTube, CNN and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who called Monday's Democratic showdown "the people's debate."

Patrick Ruffini, former eCampaign director at the Republican National Committee who served as online adviser to Giuliani for a few months earlier this year, said it would "very problematic" if the Republican candidates declined. "What's worse -- questions from the public, many of whom are supporters, or questions from the media, who many Republicans believe are biased? This is YouTube. That's not something they'd want to snub," Ruffini said.

-- Jose Antonio Vargas


McCain Adviser Trims

Advertising Strategy

When he was the media czar for President Bush's 2004 campaign, Mark McKinnon spent the year orchestrating a $150 million advertising blitz deemed crucial to the president's reelection.

Now, as a volunteer left in charge of the remnants of Sen. John McCain's media operation, McKinnon says television commercials are not so important.

"I frankly don't think John McCain needs that much paid media," he said yesterday. "He is a well-regarded American hero whose story is pretty well known. This is a game of survival, and John McCain is a survivor."

McKinnon's comments came after Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens quit their jobs as media consultants for the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign. McCain's communications director, Jill Hazelbaker, said the parting was "amicable" and "unrelated to the management change" when the senator replaced his campaign manager and laid off part of his staff as anemic fundraising left him with little in the bank.

"This certainly isn't the way we hoped it would turn out," said Schriefer, who was recruited by McKinnon after they worked together in both Bush campaigns. But with the lack of resources, he said, "it's a very different kind of campaign than was planned six months ago," and, "after thinking it over, it seemed like a good time to part ways."

McKinnon, who will continue to work with California ad-maker Fred Davis, said that "while I expect John McCain will probably run some media, it probably won't be much and it will probably be late" in the season.

Demonstrating his ability to craft a positive narrative, McKinnon said of McCain: "In many ways, I think what he's just gone through in the campaign makes his story even more compelling. People are rooting for him to come back."

-- Howard Kurtz


Automated Calls in Iowa

Irk Brownback's Opponents

Using a pair of "robocalls" targeting Republicans in Iowa, Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) is attacking his rivals on abortion in the hopes of scoring an upset victory in the state's straw poll a week from Saturday.

The automated phone calls have drawn condemnation from their targets -- former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) -- and underscore the stakes for the handful of candidates who are competing in the contest. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani are not participating.

In one call, Brownback attacks Romney, accusing him of pledging "to support and uphold pro-abortion policies" and "life-destructive embryonic stem cell research." The call singles out Romney's wife, Ann, as a contributor to Planned Parenthood.

Romney returned to Iowa today for a 48-hour swing through small towns, where he will hold a series of "Ask Mitt Anything" town hall meetings. Romney told reporters that Brownback "has run a uniformly negative campaign, which has distorted the truth and been mean-spirited," adding: "I think Iowans will reject that."

-- Michael D. Shear

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