TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana became a player in the presidential selection process in the 2008 campaign.
The state could serve as center stage in 2012, and should seize the opportunity.
That’s not a reference to Gov. Mitch Daniels or U.S. Rep. Mike Pence running for the Oval Office, though both are possibilities. Instead, one of the 2012 presidential debates could happen on Hoosier soil. Purdue and Indiana universities seem serious about serving as a host site and intend to submit applications to the Commission on Presidential Debates when that process opens on Jan. 3.
A debate inside Purdue’s Elliott Hall of Music — whether it involves Daniels or Pence or some out-of-state GOP pick like Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee facing off against President Obama — would benefit Indiana and the country. The same goes for an Obama-Daniels duel at IU or some other Hoosier college.
“I think our decision-makers need to know Indiana a heck of a lot better than they do,” said Carolyn Curiel, a Purdue communications professor whose students are working to bring a 2012 debate to that West Lafayette campus.
“It’s an amazing place that’s really unknown to much of the American public,” she added, “and also the policy- and decision-makers in Washington.”
Candidates in the 2008 cycle scrambled to find Indiana on their campaign maps when the state’s primary — usually an afterthought because of its late timing, in May — suddenly became relevant. The duel for the Democratic nomination between Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton stayed tight, meaning Hoosiers could decide the winner. Thus, Obama, Clinton, their families and other high-profile supporters poured into Indiana towns, including Terre Haute.
The state seemed to make a connection with Obama, who in the ’08 general election became the first Democrat since 1964 to carry Indiana. During the campaign, he made 40 stops here, according to The Associated Press. Since taking office, he’s visited Indiana four times, including last week’s trip to Kokomo, where its auto industry has recovered since the federal bailouts of GM and Chrysler.
The staging of a presidential debate on a Hoosier college campus would expose not only the two candidates to the state, but also 3,000 journalists and, thus, a worldwide audience. Besides the old-school method of debate watching, television, an even larger number of eyes could view the event online, assuming the format evolves to accommodate the planet’s changing technological appetites.
“It’s like the Academy Awards or the Super Bowl,” Curiel said.
She speaks from experience. Curiel worked as a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, and helped prep him for a 1996 debate against Republican challenger Bob Dole. The televised candidate showdowns, and the Commission on Presidential Debates, have long been criticized for various inadequacies, including a lack of actual debating, the exclusion of third party candidates and a failure to fully involve public participation through the Internet. As Curiel’s communications students continue working to submit a debate-site bid, she understands those flaws.
The process for the debates “is not always what we want them to be,” Curiel said, “but it’s the best thing we have.”
Choosing the sites is only the beginning of a complex process.
Since the commission formed in 1988, through an agreement by the two major parties, it has chosen college campuses as hosts. “Since debates are about education, it seemed logical to take them to educational institutions,” Janet Brown, executive director of the commission since its inception, said in a telephone interview.
Those schools should be ready for some significant disruptions, including campuswide involvement, a long to-do list for the staff and students and the strong possibility of last-minute changes. “When we roll into town, we put a big dent into people’s schedules,” Brown said.
She and the commission give prospective schools a realistic view of the experience. For example, they’ll need air-conditioned venues because of the television and media equipment involved.
Nonetheless, all of the host colleges from one of the commission's presidential debates reapplied to repeat their roles four years later, Brown said.
So far, 10 schools have inquired about hosting a 2012 debate, she said. In 2008, 19 colleges made formal applications. In the end, the University of Mississippi at Oxford, Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., entertained debates between Obama and Republican John McCain. The vice presidential candidates, Palin and Joe Biden, squared off at Washington University at St. Louis — the campus that has hosted the most debates.
The universities in the ’12 lineup could deliver debates unlike any before, if the commission implements unique ideas. One, suggested by the nonpartisan TechPresident.com in 2008, would allow the public to use telephones or the Web to assess how well the candidates are answering the questions, in real time. The use of new media such as YouTube and MySpace in the 2008 primary-season debates should become part of the official general-election debates in 2012. The inclusion of a third-party candidate, looking for legitimacy, could also force Democrats and Republicans to directly answer questions.
The chance for Purdue students to participate in such a historic moment in the democratic process is too compelling to pass up, Curiel said.
“I see no downside to this,” she said, “and hard work is not a downside, where I come from. It’s a good thing.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana became a player in the presidential selection process in the 2008 campaign.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: Hall of Memories: Names, images of baseball greats trigger connections to our own past
Baseball Hall of Famers are just people. Totally human. Still, for Americans who follow the national pastime, those players represent a nostalgic connection to summers gone by.
MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11
The words “Apollo 11” stir optimism in me.
I was an elementary school kid growing up in Vigo County when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon on July 20, 1969. So much seemed possible
MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice
Giving unsolicited advice is like offering somebody else your toothbrush, because it’s worked so well for you.
MARK BENNETT: The road ahead
An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.
MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’
Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds
Transformative changes: Five ways to strengthen Terre Haute’s ‘festival park’
Without realizing it, the crowds walking through Fairbanks Park during this week’s Banks of the Wabash Festival are paying tribute to two eras of visionaries.
MARK BENNETT: Mother of all missed opportunities
So often, we entrust mothers with so much. They draw duty as mediators when there’s a problem at school, healers when pain hits, and self-sacrificers willing to put the needs of their families ahead of their own. Not perfect, but perfectly equipped, thank God, to be the glue that holds things together. Mother’s Day offers an ideal moment to remember those qualities.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
MARK BENNETT: Telling a difficult story
Arthur Feinsod struggled to vocalize lines from his own play, “Coming to See Aunt Sophie.”
MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy
Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.
MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way
In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.
MARK BENNETT: All aboard!
Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Hall of Memories: Names, images of baseball greats trigger connections to our own past