SAN BRUNO, CA—In an effort to connect with younger voters and tap into the immense popularity of the video-sharing website, Democrat and Republican candidates participated in the first-ever presidential debates shown on YouTube to at least 11 viewers.
The video debates—which received one comment, two stars, and was favorited by no one—featured candidates answering a variety of viewer-generated questions ranging from health care to the Iraq war, and racked up 4,881,990 fewer views than a 56-second video of a sleepy cat posted the same day.
"Don't tase me, bro!" an unnamed University of Florida student said in a video that captured the attention of college-age men and women across the country. "Oww! Oww! Oww!"
Despite being highlighted on YouTube's main page for the three weeks preceding and following each debate, the two videos remain among the site's least watched, receiving five fewer views than an identical debate video that was sped up and set to the popular novelty song "Yakety Sax." Nevertheless, 2008 Democratic candidate John Edwards reportedly called the debates a "success for modern elections" in an e-mail to CollegeHumor.com, urging the popular comedy outlet to please post the video somewhere, anywhere on its website.
Although Republican frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani touted his ability to bring in literally hundreds of new viewers to November's GOP debate, the Federal Election Commission ruled that his campaign misled voters and broke federal law when it tagged the video as "Lindsay Lohan Britney Spears VMAs Boobs The Notebook Kiss Scene Juggling Letterman Spiderman." The FEC also discounted several accidental views resulting from searches for "Hilary Duff," "Dennis the Menace," and "Daily Show Republican Debate."
While official YouTube estimates put the debates' total number of hits at just under a dozen, some candidates claimed the statistics had been miscalculated and should be rounded up to 13 to include the time Democratic candidate Joe Biden was unable to view the video because his dial-up Internet connection was too slow.
Leaders from both parties said they were already looking forward to holding similar debates in 2008, and that the next round will feature expanded interactive features for YouTube members, more candid discussions between candidates, and a surprise ending involving Mentos and Diet Coke.