Democrats to spar off in first Internet debate this week

Posted by Mark Raby

Washington (DC) - The first official cyber presidential debate kicks off tomorrow as an interactive webcast to be broadcast on multiple sites.

Yahoo is the biggest name in the new debate.  Beginning tomorrow, users will be able to participate in polls about what they believe the key issues are.  Democratic candidates will then be asked questions about these issues.

In addition, users can submit videos and specific questions for the candidates at The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com), a high-profile political blog.  Slate.com will also participate in the forum.

PBS political anchor Charlie Rose will moderate the debate.

Yahoo's ad for the debate reads, "Starting September 13th, the Democratic presidential candidates are at your command ... It is an on-demand interactive video forum that lets you create your own debate."

The Internet has proven to be a critical component to the presidential campaign, but one important half of the equation is still tepid - the Republicans.  The GOP so far has no plans to hold an online-only debate.  In the 2006 election, Republicans also had much less official presence on Youtube any Myspace.

The biggest merge of new media in the campaign process came last month when CNN partnered with Youtube for an interactive debate.  Some criticized the format, though, because CNN hand-picked all the videos that were shown, including systematically blocking out some of the most popular videos.