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The Northwest’s turn

Ford and Carter
Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at a 1976 debate

The applications are in: Sites in Portland/Vancouver and in Spokane have been proposed as locations for the 2008 presidential (and presumably vice presidential) debates. So what are the odds one of them will be selected?

There’s no knowing with any certainty, of course; and, of course, we’ve not done a thorough site-analysis to determine exactly how well the specific venues would fit the unusual and specific needs of a presidential debate. The two locals are Washington State University at Spokane (no, not at the mother ship at Pullman), and the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (at a Portland-area site, possibly Clark College at Vancouver).

The other 17 applicants: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; Belmont University, Nashville, TN; Centre College, Danville, KY; Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, Indiana; Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; Indiana University and the City of Bloomington’s Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ohio State University, National Public Radio, and Public Broadcasting Service, Columbus, OH; State of Illinois (Lakeside Center/McCormick Place, Chicago); University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR; University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, OH; University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS; VisitPittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; Washington University in St. Louis, MO; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; Women of the Storm, New Orleans, LA.

Statistically, 19 organizations around the country applied to host what may be four (possibly three) presidential/vice presidential faceoffs. So on its face, the odds of a Northwest debate might be between one in two and one in three.

We would suggest that on a regional basis at least, it’s past time to give the Northwest a shot. The Northwest, after all, is the one region of the country that never has hosted a televised presidential debate.

Here’s the short history on general election presidential debate locations (this doesn’t consider the primaries, of course; the totals include vice-presidential debates, which were held each cycle but 1980 and 1960).

year number location
2004 4 Coral Gables FL; Cleveland OH; St. Louis MO; Tempe AZ
2000 4 Boston MA; Winston-Salem NC; St Louis MO; Danville KY
1996 3 Hartford CT; San Diego CA; St Petersburg FL
1992 4 St Louis MO; Richmond VA; East Lansing MI; Atlanta GA
1988 3 Winston-Salem NC; Los Angeles CA; Omaha NE
1984 3 Louisville KY; Kansas City KS; Philadelphia PA
1980 2 Baltimore MD; Cleveland OH
1976 4 Philadelphia PA; San Francisco CA; Williamsburg VA; Houston TX
1960 3 Chicago, Washington, New York/Los Angeles

St. Louis and Winston-Salem have certainly been well-represented. So have New England, Florida, the Northeast-Great Lakes and California. The south shows up in hosts from Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and Texas. The Plains? St. Louis (three of the last four cycles), Kansas city, Omaha. The Intermountain West, southern division, did finally get a host at Tempe, Arizona, last cycle – and Tempe is this year the only applicant (apart from Spokane and Portland) from anywhere west of the Ozarks. There’s not even an application from California.

True, the matter of hosting presidential debates is a less significant matter than, say, the location of primary elections. But it might be nice to do some fair spread-around next year, nonetheless.

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