GW eyes debates in 2000

GW officials are crossing their fingers that efforts during this week’s conference on the future of presidential debates will pay off in a few years with the chance to host a debate on campus during the 2000 campaign.

Members of the political and journalism communities joined GW students in the Marvin Center Theater Monday and Tuesday to dissect the 1996 debates and propose changes for the future as part of the Commission on Presidential Debates Symposium.

GW was a finalist to host the 1996 presidential debates, but lost to four other universities. According to GW Director of Public Affairs Mike Freedman, the University’s location may hurt its chances to host a debate.

“It’s a major hurdle,” Freedman said. “If the two political parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates conclude that Washington, D.C. is the last place to have a debate, you have a real uphill fight.”

Christopher Arterton, dean of GW’s Graduate School of Political Management, said many politicians like to get outside the Beltway to debate.

“In most years, candidates are anxious to attack Washington, rather then present themselves as part of the Washington establishment,” Arterton said.

But Arterton said he is uncertain whether voters would react negatively to a debate in the District.

“I’m not sure location makes a great deal of difference . in the point of view of voters,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said though he feels candidates would want to leave Washington for the debates, the city is considered neutral and does not favor a single candidate.

Arterton said GW would be a logistically good place for the debates, because Secret Service agents are familiar with the city.

When the University of San Diego hosted a presidential debate in 1996, the campus was closed for a week and students and staff were required to wear photo IDs.

Jack Cannon, the director of public relations at USD, chaired the school’s Presidential Debate Task Force and said the process for preparing to host a debate is long and difficult, but worth the work.

“The results are nothing short of historic,” Cannon said. “A presidential debate immediately turns your university into a historic site.”

Cannon said students were involved in many aspects of the debate, working as runners for different candidates and media organizations.

He told the audience at one of Monday’s panels that USD “was just getting over the high” of hosting last year’s debate.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said location is not the only factor in choosing a campus to host the debate. She said GW’s location did not prevent it from being considered equally in 1996.

“I don’t think it should be a mark against the students here because they chose to go to school in Washington,” Brown said.

“We don’t have to host a debate in 2000 to be a full participant in the process,” Freedman said, though he said he is advocating that GW apply to be a host site.

Freedman said the University could participate by serving as headquarters for the national Debate Watch program, which polls public reaction to the presidential debates. GW was a Debate Watch site during the 1996 campaign.

Members of the political and journalism communities joined GW students in the Marvin Center Theater Monday and Tuesday to dissect the 1996 debates and propose changes for the future as part of the Commission on Presidential Debates Symposium.

GW was a finalist to host the 1996 presidential debates, but lost to four other universities. According to GW Director of Public Affairs Mike Freedman, the University’s location may hurt its chances to host a debate.

“It’s a major hurdle,” Freedman said. “If the two political parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates conclude that Washington, D.C. is the last place to have a debate, you have a real uphill fight.”

Christopher Arterton, dean of GW’s Graduate School of Political Management, said many politicians like to get outside the Beltway to debate.

“In most years, candidates are anxious to attack Washington, rather then present themselves as part of the Washington establishment,” Arterton said.

But Arterton said he is uncertain whether voters would react negatively to a debate in the District.

“I’m not sure location makes a great deal of difference . in the point of view of voters,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said though he feels candidates would want to leave Washington for the debates, the city is considered neutral and does not favor a single candidate.

Arterton said GW would be a logistically good place for the debates, because Secret Service agents are familiar with the city.

When the University of San Diego hosted a presidential debate in 1996, the campus was closed for a week and students and staff were required to wear photo IDs.

Jack Cannon, the director of public relations at USD, chaired the school’s Presidential Debate Task Force and said the process for preparing to host a debate is long and difficult, but worth the work.

“The results are nothing short of historic,” Cannon said. “A presidential debate immediately turns your university into a historic site.”

Cannon said students were involved in many aspects of the debate, working as runners for different candidates and media organizations.

He told the audience at one of Monday’s panels that USD “was just getting over the high” of hosting last year’s debate.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said location is not the only factor in choosing a campus to host the debate. She said GW’s location did not prevent it from being considered equally in 1996.

“I don’t think it should be a mark against the students here because they chose to go to school in Washington,” Brown said.

“We don’t have to host a debate in 2000 to be a full participant in the process,” Freedman said, though he said he is advocating that GW apply to be a host site.

Freedman said the University could participate by serving as headquarters for the national Debate Watch program, which polls public reaction to the presidential debates. GW was a Debate Watch site during the 1996 campaign.

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