GOP's Debate in St Petersburg
Photo/text by Renee Burrell
Ron Paul supporters waved banners en masse debate night on St Petersburg's streets, in the sky using a plane and shown here on a flood lit boat. CNN show host Glenn Beck's November 30th e-mail/newsletter included a message for Paul: "If elections were decided by how annoying supporters were, Ron Paul would have 100% of the vote." Apparently Beck's producers get hundreds of emails from them daily asking why Beck doesn't have Paul appear on his show, even though Paul has been invited.
Last Wednesday the 8 GOP presidential candidates abandoned their campaign trails in Iowa and New Hampshire to participate in the CNN-YouTube-RPOF debate in front of a live audience of 1,600 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and broadcast nationally.
The debate was moderated by CNN's Anderson Cooper and lasted two hours but debates over CNN's selections for the questioning is still going on a week later.
Debate participants included Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor Mike Huckabee, Congressman Duncan Hunter, Senator John McCain, Congressman Ron Paul, Governor Mitt Romney, Congressman Tom Tancredo, and Senator Fred Thompson.
More than 3,500 questions were submitted in the form of 30-second video clips filmed and uploaded to YouTube, a video-sharing web site.
Questions ran the gamut of traditional conservative issues from illegal immigration and taxes to abortion and guns. Huckabee showed good humor and distinguished himself conservatively when asked, what Jesus would do about the death penalty. Huckabee said, "I believe there is a place for a death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible that the only response that we, as a civilized nation, have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix. Now, having said that, there are those who say, how can you be pro-life and believe in the death penalty? Because there's a real difference between the process of adjudication, where a person is deemed guilty after a thorough judicial process and is put to death by all of us, as citizens, under a law, as opposed to an individual making a decision to terminate a life that has never been deemed guilty because the life never was given a chance to even exist."
Thursday CNN released statements in their defense after criticism for not presenting questions relating to current hot issues like the environment, social security and Iraq and foreign policy. "The whole point of these ground-breaking CNN/YouTube debates is to focus on substantive questions of concern to real people and to throw open the process to a wider range of Americans all around the country. CNN cared about what you asked, not who you were. This was the case for both the Democratic and the Republican CNN/YouTube debates."
One of the questioners was a retired brigadier general named Keith Kerr, who asked about gays in the military. After the debate it was brought to CNN's attention that Kerr had ties to the Clintons and had served on a homosexual and transgender steering committee.
David Bohrman CNN's senior vice president and executive producer for the debate said, "We regret this incident. CNN would not have used the General's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) remained upbeat following the debate. "This debate was an unprecedented opportunity for people across the nation to ask the Republican presidential candidates where they stand on the issues that are important to them," said RPOF Chairman Jim Greer. "It illustrates Florida's growing and prominent role in the 2008 election and in partnering with CNN and YouTube, we were able to present the candidates in a new, unique format."
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