WASHINGTON (CNN) - In this video clip, former Sen. George Allen of Virginia speaks with CNN’S Wolf Blitzer about Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
Allen, a co-chairman of Thompson’s presidential campaign, discusses Thompson’s performance during Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate and a Thompson ad targeting GOP rivals Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney that the Thompson campaign submitted to CNN for the YouTube debate.
Allen, whose 2006 Senate re-election bid was undone by his "macaca" video moment distributed via YouTube, tells Blitzer he thinks the Internet’s impact on politics is good for American democracy. “The more that people are informed and have access to information and ideas, the better,” says Allen, likening the Internet to the printing press. Allen also talks with Blitzer about whether he will ever run for political office again. Watch Allen’s Situation Room interview.
–CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
(CNN) - As the country watched Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, CNN had a group of 24 undecided GOP voters react to the debate in real-time through devices called "peoplemeters." In this report, Dana Bash takes a look at how key moments from the debate were received by the undecided voters.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) - Nearly 5 million viewers tuned in to watch the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, making it the highest rated primary debate in cable news history.
A total of 4.9 million viewers watched the Republican candidates square off – 4.4 million on CNN and 500,000 on CNN Headline News, which simulcast the debate.
CNN’s Democratic presidential debate at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas two weeks ago is the second highest-rated debate in history, with 4 million total viewers.
With five weeks to go before the first wave of voters weigh in at the polls, the historic television audiences seem to indicate a growing interest in what have shaped up to be wide-open primary contests in both parties.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - The skies opened up here in Tampa just an hour before the debate. Florida downpours are usually cleansing and invigorating – washing away the day’s dust and grime, feeding new life into roots and leaves. You know that tomorrow will be greener than today was. But tonight’s storm might have been a metaphor for the latest dark cloud hanging over Rudy Giuliani’s bid for the White House.
Revelations that – as mayor of New York – his office may have hid funds for accommodation and security during the time he was courting then girlfriend/soon to be 3rd wife Judith Nathan in New York’s tony Hamptons.
The disclosure sent a new wave of uncertainty through the media and blog worlds. Was it a dime dropped by an opponent? How might it hurt the man who is campaigning on truth and honesty – if not his personal life, at least in government? Would the other candidates pick up on it?
How it plays may come down to what the current occupant of City Hall, Michael Bloomberg has to say about it.
Regardless, it is exactly what a candidate doesn’t want on the night of a big debate like this one. They want to weave their own narrative. Giuliani was at risk of following the news instead of driving it. He is running on his record as mayor.
He insists that the story “is not true” that nothing improper was done, and that he is not responsible for how expenses were reported. But anything that raises questions about how he used public funds while at the helm of America’s biggest city may reflect on how voters think he will handle the nation’s budget. And with Mitt Romney reinvigorating his drive to box Giuliani out of a win in the early primary states and steamroll his way to victory, the former mayor can’t afford to lose even one step in the few weeks remaining.
- American Morning Anchor John Roberts
Tempers flared at last night's debate.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - Perhaps it was the cloudburst that hit St. Petersburg just before the debate, but there was an awful lot of mud around the Mahaffey Theater. And it only took one question for Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney to pick up a handful and start flinging it about.
The question was on immigration and whether – as President – Giuliani would support so-called “sanctuary cities”. Within moments, Giuliani and Romney were at each other – the former mayor accusing the former governor of employing illegal immigrants to landscape his mansion – Romney muttering something about it being unrealistic to ask everyone with a “funny accent” working at your home for their immigration papers.
Not exactly the way to win the Hispanic vote in America.It’s a sign of how close the early primary race has become. Romney is aggressively trying to shut Giuliani out of a win in the first few contests, hoping that the traditional “winner’s bounce” will change voters’ minds in the big super-Tuesday states and propel him to victory.
With little more than a month left before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican candidates are in a full-on rush to illuminate what separates them from their challengers. As uncertain as the race was months ago, it is even moreso now. The debate is about leadership and record. Who has the qualities and the qualifications for the highest office in the land. And while they’re all trying to be different, they’re also attempting to be the same. Who is toughest on immigration, terrorism, inflated spending, taxes. Who best to bring the Republican party back to its core values. Time is running out, and so the rhetoric gets ever hotter.
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - A few quick observations - the only time Sen. Hillary Clinton has been mentioned is in the pre-produced spots that the campaigns submitted to CNN and YouTube. No one has mentioned her on stage. Is anyone else surprised by that?
Also, is it just me or did there not use to be so much booing at presidential debates?
And no, your eyes are not deceiving you, that is indeed action star Chuck Norris sitting in the audience. He is supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
- AC360 Associate Producer Jack Gray
Romney and Giuliani tussled over immigration at the beginning of the debate.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In the first moments of the CNN/YouTube debate, sparks flew between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the issue of so-called sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.
After Romney attacked Giuliani for saying New York was not a sanctuary city, Giuliani responded by saying Romney lived in a "sanctuary mansion" and that Romney employed illegal immigrants at his own home.
Romney denied the allegations.
- CNN Political Assignment Editor Katy Byron
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CNN) - All these guys are trying to out tough-talk each other on illegal immigration. Including John McCain. They clearly got the same message from McCain's spectacular fall from grace this summer: Conservatives will not support any Republican who is in any way sympathetic to illegal immigrants. Including President Bush.
- CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider
(CNN) - Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee jumped into the immigration showdown with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, saying that although immigrants are part of what makes the United States a great nation, "It's our home. We now get to decide who comes into our home. To place somebody above [those waiting for legal immigration] or in front of them in line is the wrong thing to do."
Thompson said federal funding should be cut off to cities that provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants.
Thompson also took a jab at Giuliani, who bashed Romney for employing illegal immigrants, and defended his own record of employee scandals.
"I think we've all had people probably that we've hired that in retrospect probably was a bad decision," Thompson said, referring to a campaign fundraiser and personal friend who resigned from the Thompson campaign because of drug-related crimes and issues with the IRS.
- CNN Associate Producer Natalie Apsell
(CNN) - From the first moments of the debate, the crowd at the Mahaffey Theater played a major role in setting the dynamic for the candidates.
Quick to applaud and to boo, the packed house had all eight GOP presidential hopefuls working to get their applause - and to avoid the jeers.
A testy back-and-forth between former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over immigration early in the debate was punctuated by frequent applause and some jeers.
When moderator Anderson Cooper tried to move on to the next question and Giuliani jumped back to respond to Romney's remarks, members of the crowd booed. Giuliani quickly paused, and the next YouTube question was played.
- CNN's Josh Levs