The Democrats who took part in the debate, which was televised on American news channel CNN, were: Hillary Clinton, the New York senator, Barack Obama, senator for Illinois, John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, Joe Biden, senator for Delaware, Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio representative, Mike Gravel, the former Alaska Senator and Christopher Dodd, Senator for Connecticut.
One questioner asked if the candidates would be prepared to work for the minimum wage, suggesting the successful presidential candidate serve a four year term at $5.85 an hour, rather than the president’s annual $400,000 salary.
“Sure,” agreed Clinton.
Obama said the group could all afford to do so and when Dodd protested, Obama cut him off saying, “You’re doing okay, Chris.”
Voters posed questions to the eight candidates
via the YouTube website [AFP]
During the debate, he also took a shot at those who had given Bush the authority to invade Iraq, though he did not name either Clinton or Edwards.
“The time to ask how we’re going to get out of Iraq was before we got in,” he said.
Richardson said US troops had “become targets”, and said he was the only candidate pledging to remove troops within six months.
Clinton said US troops should be removed from Iraq “safely and orderly and carefully”.
Meanwhile, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed on Monday that nearly 80 per cent of Americans see George Bush, the US president, as too inflexible on the war in Iraq.
The poll showed most would prefer that the Democrat-run congress have the final word on when to withdraw US forces.
Bush’s approval rating, at just 33 per cent matched his all-time low, while other recent polls have shown Bush’s approval rating below 30 per cent.
Obama also said that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, nations the Bush administration has shown it has little time for.
“I think it’s a disgrace that we have not spoken to them,” he said.
Clinton warned such meetings could be used for propaganda purposes.
Most of the candidates have used social networking tools, YouTube and MySpace alongside their websites to put their message across to voters.
YouTube has also featured plenty of videos relating to the candidates, including one of Edwards’ combing his hair to the tune “I Feel Pretty” and a pouting model who tells viewers that she has a crush on Obama.
As part of the debate the candidates were asked to produce their own videos.
Clinton’s ended with the phrase: “Sometimes the best man for a job is a woman.”
Even before the debate, YouTube has had an impact on American politics.
George Allen, a Republican senator, lost his seat in Virginia and a likely spot in the presidential race, after a video in which he was caught referring to a man of South Asian decent as “macaca” was posted on the video-sharing site.
Macaca, meaning monkey, is a racial slur originally used by colonialists against the natives in Francophone Africa.