The controversy over Republican candidate participation in the YouTube debates scheduled for September 17 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida appears to be building as several candidates declared their intention to participate while the two front runners remained cool to the idea.
A story in the Washington Post this morning suggested that “sources familiar” with the Giuliani campaign said that the GOP frontrunner was considering bypassing the debate. A spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney said that the campaign had received 7 debate invitations over an 11-day period in September and had not committed to any of them. Romney himself expressed some good natured skepticism with the YouTube format saying “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” referring to a questioner at the Democratic debates on Monday night who dressed as a snowman to ask about global warming.
Sam Feist of CNN said that as of this morning, only John McCain and Ron Paul had formally accepted invitations to the debate. Pajamas Media has learned that at least one other Republican candidate has since decided to attend.
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson’s campaign announced his plans to participate in the debate. The Thompson campaign teased Mitt Romney in their statement confirming his participation in the debates saying “We’ll answer questions from any American who wants to ask one and that includes one dressed up like a snowman.”
“Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain seem more interested in finding reasons to pass up opportunities to address Americans than finding opportunities to engage in debate,” said Steve Grubbs, Senior National Advisor for the Thompson Presidential campaign.
Lou Moore, National Campaign Manager for Ron Paul said he didn’t know whether it was “fear or ignorance” that would keep the frontrunners from the debate. “The American people deserve to hear from the candidates,” he said.
A spokesman for Fred Thompson told Pajamas Media that the former Senator would have no statement about participation in the debate because officially, he is not a candidate. Any public statement that would identify him as such would require him to file a report with the FEC and place restrictions on his fundraising ability.
Meanwhile, at least one GOP candidate didn’t receive their invitation to participate in the debate until today. A spokesperson in the Tom Tancredo campaign office told Pajamas Media that they were still mulling over the decision as to whether they will participate in the debate and had only received the formal request to appear at the event this morning.
Reached for comment late today, YouTube told Pajamas Media that they were “hopeful” all Republican candidates would participate in the event.
“The Democratic CNN/YouTube debate was a success and we have equally high expectations for the Republican CNN/YouTube Debate.”
Rick Moran blogs at Right Wing Nut House