College prepares for GOP debate
By Emily Baer, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, September 14, 2011
With the Oct. 11 Republican primary debate drawing nearer, Dartmouth officials are working to prepare the logistical elements of the College-hosted event. The debate, which will take place in Spaulding Auditorium from 8-10 p.m., will focus on the hot-button topic of the economy and will be moderated by PBS host and renowned journalist Charlie Rose, Bloomberg Television White House correspondent Julianna Goldman and The Washington Post’s national political correspondent Karen Tumulty.
Tumulty, Goldman and Rose have begun coordinating ideas and holding brainstorming sessions for the debate, which will focus primarily on economic issues, Goldman said in an email to The Dartmouth. “With the Bloomberg terminal, we’re uniquely positioned to back up our questioning with an enormous amount of data,” Goldman said.
Officials from the debate’s four sponsors — Dartmouth, Bloomberg News, The Washington Post and local news outlet WBIN-TV — have not yet decided on the questioning format to be used in the debate, according to Justin Anderson, director of media relations for the College. The sponsors are still considering whether Rose will ask each question or if he will also take questions from students and faculty members, Anderson said.
Although the debate format is still unknown, the moderators plan to work in line with the debate’s theme and will pose questions primarily pertaining to the economy, according to Goldman.
“If it’s related to the economy, you can bet it’s on the table of questions for the debate,” Goldman said in an email to The Dartmouth. “Taxes, deficits, jobs, China, Social Security, Medicare, health care — those are just some of the topics that come to mind.”
In formulating questions for the debate, the moderators are “trying to frame the questions so [candidates are] not just spouting their talking points back at [the audience] but giving a deeper perspective on how they think and they’ll lead,” Tumulty said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
The exact number of seats that will be available in Spaulding Auditorium is also undetermined because the set design — which will dictate the number of seats that must be removed for camera space — has not been finalized. Anderson said he expects the design to leave approximately 800 seats open.
“Dartmouth will have a higher percentage of those seats than our other partners,” Anderson said. “Bloomberg, The Washington Post and WBIN will allocate their seats however they deem appropriate.”
The College will most likely garner approximately 300 seats — a number similar to that of the 2007 Democratic primary debate held in Spaulding Auditorium.
Tickets will be available to students via an online lottery system, according to Sadhana Hall, deputy director of the Rockefeller Center. All tickets will be free of cost.
For the 2007 debate, nearly 3,800 students entered to win approximately 115 seats reserved for students in Spaulding.
Information about the lottery system will be available on a website with the schedule of the debate and other College-sponsored activities surrounding the event, Anderson said. The website will go live in the upcoming weeks, according to Anderson.
Students who do not win tickets to the debate can watch the event live in Leede Arena, which can accommodate 2,000 students, according to Rockefeller Center Program Student Assistant John Turro ’12. The debate will be projected by live feed onto a hanging screen in the arena, and the Rockefeller Center’s watch party will feature a DJ and student performers. Candidates are expected to speak at the arena following the debate, according to Turro.
“It’s more than just an alternative to the debate in Spaulding,” he said. “Students will possibly get to meet the candidates. It’s pretty exciting.”
Anderson said he anticipates that approximately 150 journalists will arrive on campus to report on the debate. Journalists will not view the debate in Spaulding, but rather on computers and televisions in the filing center, which will be set up in Alumni Hall.
The “spin room,” where journalists will speak with members of the candidates’ campaigns before, during and after the debate, will be located in the Top of the Hop. After the debate, various campaign representatives will meet in the spin room to discuss their candidates’ performances with members of the media, Anderson said.
The planning process for the debate has required a “collaborative effort” from several organizations across campus, according to Hall.
“It has been a joint effort between the Office of Public Affairs, Rockefeller Center and Office of [Conferences and Special Events],” Hall said.
“College Democrats President Sam Lewis ’13, College Republicans President Parker Hinman ’13 and College Libertarians President Joshua Schiefelbein ’14 have been working with Turro, the Rockefeller Center and other departments to plan events surrounding the debate, according to Hall.
The Rockefeller Center plans to sponsor class visits from representatives of Bloomberg News, The Washington Post and WBIN, although the details have not yet been finalized, according to Turro. There are plans for a focus group — open to all students and operated in a town hall forum — that will be led by Ronald Shaiko, government professor and associate director of the Rockefeller Center.
The Rockefeller Center also hopes to host additional debate-centered events, including a lecture delivered by representatives of the Republican National Committee, a meet and greet with the various Republican campaigns visiting campus and a special address from College President Jim Yong Kim, Turro said. These events will likely occur on the day of and the day before the debate, he said.
The Rockefeller Center is also planning a pre-debate panel led by political journalist and Dartmouth Trustee Morton Kondracke ’60, during which faculty members and alumni in journalism will preview and discuss the 2012 presidential election. The panel will be held in Moore Theater, which, excluding the balcony, will seat about 400 members of the Dartmouth community, Anderson said.