Countdown to CNN/YouTube Debate: Media Madness Comes to St. Petersburg
I can't tell you for sure whether Billiam, the snowman concerned about global warming in the first CNN/YouTube debate, will make an appearance at tomorrow's reprise here in St. Petersburg.
But I can tell you who won't be appearing: Gov. Charlie Crist.
"I can break the rules and tell you we will not be using the governor's question," said David Bohrman, the CNN executive in charge of the debate, during a walk-through of the debate hall with local and national media a couple of hours ago. "Governors have access to these candidates already. We got lots of questions submitted by celebrities and someone well known. We wanted to showcase questions from the people."
The Mahaffey Theater has the feel of a giant TV studio set, tricked out with an array of lights, teleprompters and camera positions. At stage right, a huge, 25-foot wide definition video screen proudly displayed the event's logo; on Wednesday, that screen will feature each of the 40 or so questions expected to form the meat of tomorrow night's debate.
Host Anderson Cooper hadn't arrived yet. Flying in from Los Angeles tonight, he was expected to huddle with producers and winnow down the final group of questions to 60 or 70 potentials. Looking at the grand display, including a wide backdrop incorporating the logos of CNN, YouTube, Progress energy and Republican Party of Florida, one local TV reporter wondered how much it all cost.
Bohrman, a big bear of man who sounds like an old hand on the eve of his second YouTube-affiliated debate, handed the assembled media deftly. No, there will be no "gotcha" questions submitted by those who seem to be from the Democratic side of the issues. Yes, the feel of the nearly 5,000 questions submitted is different than the 3,000 or so submitted for the Democrats.
Fun facts: Kirk Douglas submitted a question ("No one even flagged it for us," said Bohrman, who noted somebody stumbled on it while sorting through questions.) Democratic candidates Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich submitted queries, too (don't expect to see them on camera, tomorrow).
And some publicists were buzzing over news that action movie star Chuck Norris was expected to stand in a corner of the Mahaffey lobby reserved as "the spin room" -- where flacks for each candidate provide soundbites to the assembled press -- in support of Mike Huckabee (What's his campaign slogan? "Vote for me or Chuck Norris will kick your ass?")
The buzz was heady enough that Bohrman wasn't even bothered that ABC News and Facebook tried to steal a bit of their thunder, announcing Monday that they would present to back-to-back debates in New Hampshire days before the primary there.
"It's about time somebody followed us," he said, noting that it remained unclear how Facebook users would impact the actual debate. "This is a radical though here -- every question comes from YouTube. I don't think we'll see another presidential cycle where there's no public participation in a debate."
Check out Huckabee's commercial featuring the Chuckster. If his policies weren't so awful,I'd crossparty lines to vote for him....