As you may or may not know, the 2008 United States Presidential race is underway. In recent years the effect of the Internet on elections has been increasingly hyped in the media, starting primarily with McCain’s Republican Primary surge in the 2000 election. And now tomorrow, July 23rd, the US 2008 election, the media, and the Internet shall converge in a fully orchestrated manner.

The July 23rd debate is especially interesting for those of us in the Web 2.0 space and interested in seeing how the interactive Internet can be used in the political arena. CNN will host the debate in conjunction with YouTube. New Media YouTube teaming up with Old Media CNN, you say? It allows for some interesting interactivity- namely, American Citizens can make videos of themselves asking questions of the presidential candidates. Anyone can ask a presidential candidate a question by submitting a video here.

I write this on the eve of the debate, July 22nd; there are over 2384 submissions so far tonight. After sampling a few there appear to be some genuine quality questions. You can have a look at a number of the submissions by hitting this page on YouTube. The opportunity exists to really revolutionize and engage the electorate in debate- talk about hands on “grass roots” politics on a national scale. This is the stuff the Internet was made for. I truly hope this can become a new and established format so that all us little guys can engage large networks and new media giants and connect with leaders of all types, from politicians to CEOs.

The debate is for the Democrats and will air for two hours starting at 7 p.m. EST. The next one will air on September 17th for the Republicans. Anderson Cooper has been slated to moderate and is reported to offer between 20 and 30 questions. In an elaborate campaign that equally advertises CNN, YouTube, and parent company Google, the debate will feature geographical locations of questioners on Google Earth maps; and oversized projector screens streaming questions by visitors to the site.

I look forward to watching the event, which takes place in Charleston South Carolina, to see exactly how these YouTube user questions are integrated into the CNN hosted event. Will they air the truly challenging questions or will they stick to easy ones and simply emphasize the YouTube “questions from the mouths of the electorate” angle as a Web 2.0 novelty and publicity stunt for those companies involved?