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Huffington Post plans online debate for US Presidential race

LONDON - The Huffington Post, the US current affairs blog, has agreed a deal with Yahoo! and Washington Post-owned news site Slate to host two online debates between candidates for next year's US Presidential elections.

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The Huffington Post, which lists former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, writer Norman Mailer and Harry Shearer, the voice of 'The Simpsons' Montgomery Burns, among its bloggers, is to host the first online debate between presidential candidates, as the race for the White House intensifies.

It is understood the debate could feature Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republican candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney, but The Huffington Post has not yet confirmed who has signed up for the first debate, which is likely to take place after Labor Day in September.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, said: "This Presidential campaign is going to happen on the internet more than any other. We have so many candidates announcing on the internet, we have ads on the internet that have more power and reach [than television ads]."

The debate, which will be chaired by PBS presenter Charlie Rose, will be streamed via Yahoo!, The Huffington Post and Slate news sites, with questions being submitted directly from US voters.

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each formally launched their intentions to run for the Presidency via their websites in January.

Political commentators have been tipping the 2008 US Presidential elections to feature some of the most hotly contested floating votes and most decisive online campaign presence of all time.

Cyrus Krohn, director of Yahoo!'s election strategy, said: "In the past, candidates or consultants were just trying to hold off on the internet as long as possible. This is a medium that can't be ignored any longer."

According to the Federal Election Commission, the 2008 US Presidential campaign will be the most expensive US presidential race of all time, with an estimated $1bn (£500m) to be spent overall. Michael Toner, chairman of the FEC predicts that potential candidates would need to raise in the region of $100m by the end of 2007 "to be taken seriously" as a presidential contender.

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