Campaigning by Democratic candidates vying for the presidency was limited to brief photo opportunities Monday as their focus shifted to preparing for the first presidential debate to pose questions by the public via Internet videos.
The two-hour debate is sponsored by cable television's CNN in partnership with online video-swapping service YouTube Inc. and Google Inc., the Internet search engine. It is set to start at 7 p.m. EDT from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.
Editors at CNN will select questions from personal videos delivered to YouTube. Some of the submitted videos were already posted.
"What will you do to end the spread of check centers and stop predatory lending in low-income neighborhoods?" asks one man standing in front of a check-cashing center in Oakland, Calif.
He went on to explain that he's concerned that "mainstream" banks are leaving inner city neighborhoods, forcing residents to rely on more expensive alternatives.
The Citadel was also scurrying for the event, cancelling classes and making its own Web appearances.
"We're making history with this debate," Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in his own video posted on the school's Web site. "For the first time, you'll be able to submit questions through YouTube directly to the candidates. Technology is changing the way we do business in our lives every day, and it's certainly going to change the way we elect public officials," Rosa continued.
The Citadel military college was founded in 1842. The school's Corps of Cadets – its undergraduates – numbers 2,000; about 30 percent of them join the armed forces each year.
The venue serves as a crucial reminder for a nation at war in Iraq.
Democrats have repeatedly lost efforts to force the withdrawal of troops in Iraq despite criticism from Republicans over the way President Bush is managing the war.
Mike Duncan, chairman of the Republican National Committee, submitted a question suggesting that top Democratic contenders – Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois – have shifted their positions on withdrawing from Iraq.
The debate marks the third for South Carolina. It will be the first state in the south to convene a primary in late January.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press