Average Citizens Ask the Questions in Dem Debate

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- The Democrats running for the White House have fielded more than two hours of questions submitted to the online video community YouTube.

"Tonight is really something of an experiment." That's how moderator Anderson Cooper described the Democratic presidential debate from South Carolina.

The questions were screened by CNN, which broadcast the debate from Charleston, South Carolina.

The questioners included a minister who sought opinions on gay marriage, a man who has lost three relatives to war who wanted to know how soon troops will be brought home from Iraq, and a man brandishing a rifle who wanted to now about gun control.

The candidates differed on the war in Iraq. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich said Democrats have failed the people. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he's the only candidate pledging to remove troops within six months.

One question to Senator Barack Obama: Are you black enough? Drew this reply. Obama said "You know, when I'm catching a cab in Manhattan...in the past, I think I've given my credentials."

To Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: Are you feminine enough? She said "I couldn't run as anything other than a woman."

Obama took a swipe at his rivals who voted to give President Bush authority to invade Iraq, including Clinton and former Senator John Edwards.

Other questions involved taxes, gun rights and education.

One video question had a person dressed up as a snowman asking about global warming. In another, two guys posing as Tennessee hillbillies asked if all the Al Gore-for-president buzz has hurt the candidates' feelings. That drew a quip from Joe Biden that the people of Tennessee had just had their feelings hurt by the video.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics says it doesn't really matter whether the questions are posed by "average people" or professional journalists, for the most part the candidates stick to their scripted answers.

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