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Debate may shift its date to suit the heavyweights

CNN scrambles to salvage the YouTube event.

By TIMES STAFF
Published July 29, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - A Sept. 17 Republican debate planned at the Mahaffey Theater might be rescheduled because of scheduling conflicts with some of the leading candidates.

The Web site for GOP candidate Texas Rep. Ron Paul - who has agreed to participate in the debate -- said the CNN-YouTube event had been postponed and that a new date had not yet been selected.

CNN declined to confirm that. But the network's Washington bureau chief, David Bohrman, said in a statement, "We're working with the campaigns to resolve any scheduling issues."

Leading GOP candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney said Friday they would not attend the Sept. 17 debate because of scheduling conflicts.

Gov. Charlie Crist has said he would contact the candidates if need be to urge them to attend so the event wouldn't be doomed.

Sen. John McCain, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Paul have agreed to attend. And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has reportedly agreed to attend.

The debate will feature questions asked by users of the video-sharing Web site YouTube.

Giuliani has complained that CNN picked the date without consulting the candidates. The debate falls during a critical fundraising period.

Romney, on the other hand, has criticized the debate format. A July 23 Democratic debate with the same format featured a question on global warming asked by a snowman.

"I think the presidency should be held to a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman," Romney told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday.