September 26, 2007

WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE:

Dartmouth Debate: Gunning for Clinton (SETH GITELL, September 26, 2007, NY Sun)

When Senator Clinton strides onto the Dartmouth Green tonight for a Democratic presidential debate, she will do so with a bullseye on her back.

Until very recently, Senator Obama's cache of support among liberal activists made him the focus of criticisms at presidential debates. Think of the three-way pounding Mr. Obama took at the AFL-CIO forum at Chicago's Soldier Field for suggesting that America take military action in Pakistan without the approval of that country's president. Tonight will be different. Liberals will likely turn their sights on Mrs. Clinton.

Some four months ahead of the first presidential primary, Mrs. Clinton stands on top in the polls in New Hampshire. A recent Franklin Pierce College/ WBZ survey had her leading Mr. Obama, 36% to 18%; a Rasmusen poll found her lead to be even greater, 40% to17%. Washington Post reporter Dan Balz captured the prevailing sentiment in a blog entry yesterday: "She now sits atop the Democratic field, in a tier by herself."

While the debate will be broadcast nationally on MSNBC, it will air locally on New Hampshire Public Radio and New England Cable News, a regional 24-hour news network reaching 360,000 of New Hampshire's households. The heavily watched Boston Red Sox will play early, at 5 p.m., permitting those who want to see the debate, to do so.


Downtown Hanover has been a zoo for a couple days now, with Security riding around on Segways, network satellite trucks lining the Green, and reporters doing their stand-up shots with Baker Library in the background. Meanwhile, no one can get a ticket nor figure out why which profs got one and there's a massive lawn-sign battle going on, with Senator Obama seemingly in the lead. If you don't have a dog in the fight it's rather amusing.


MORE:
Debate-related frenzy consumes campus (Jennifer Gaudette, 9/26/07, The Dartmouth

Campus life will likely be disrupted for the first day of classes, as the Green is taken over by the Campaign Visibility Area, also known as the “free speech zone” — the only area where ralliers are allowed to demonstrate or display signs. Also surrounding the Green will be several television network satellite trucks, many of which arrived Tuesday, and the news program “MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews,” which will run from 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM from the Green. Matthews will also be joining the post-debate discussion hosted by Keith Olbermann, who will broadcast from Secaucus, N.J.

Olbermann and Matthews will be just two of about 300 credentialed media swarming the campus, whicih will also be covered by Secret Service agents and blanked by over 100 student volunteers, as Spaulding Auditorium is transformed into the set of the nationally televised debate.

Director of Dartmouth Media Relations Roland Adams said students can count on noticing the media-fueled commotion.

“Any time we host an event of this magnitude, students and others are going to be aware that we have a lot of visitors here and a lot of them are media,” Adams said.

Adams was not concerned about the impact of such an event on campus, noting that Dartmouth has hosted presidential candidate debates many times before, in 1984, 1988 and 2004. The College also hosted a “New Hampshire Town Meeting” held in 1999 that was attended by both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone said he was confident that the town would be able to handle the flood of visitors.

“We handle more traffic for Homecoming night when the streets are blocked, so we don’t anticipate any problems,” Giaccone said.


Hard Work Behind the Stage: College Strives to Prepare For Tonight's Debate (Peter Jamison, 9/26/07, Valley News)
For a sign that big things were afoot yesterday at Dartmouth, one needed look no farther than campus security officer Teddy Willey. If you saw him up close, however, chances are you were looking up: Willey was standing on a Segway Personal Transporter.

Through a deal secured by Dartmouth sophomore Beau Trudel, who has worked two summers at Segway, the company loaned two transporters -- motorized chariots that bestow upon riders a peculiar resemblance to wheeled robots -- to college officials for the event.

Willey, who ordinarily works on Dartmouth Safety and Security bike patrol, beamed from his idling Segway in front of the Hopkins Center, which houses Spaulding Auditorium.

“It's going to be a nightmare tomorrow getting around,” he said. “So this” -- Willey paused to show off a pirouette -- “is nice.”

The debate runs from 9 to 11 p.m. before a live audience of about 700. But the logistical complexities of hosting a spate of high-profile politicians on a small college campus will cast a shadow well beyond the Hopkins Center.

College officials expect about 300 journalists to be on hand tomorrow. Parking near the auditorium will be prohibited to members of the public. Willey said that about 35 security officers will be deployed on campus tomorrow -- Willey himself anticipates working from 7 a.m. to 2 or 3 in the morning -- in addition to Hanover Police Department officers and a Secret Service complement for some of the candidates.

One might expect students to be a bit put out at so much hubbub on the first day of class, but those interviewed yesterday said the debate buzz has only added to the thrill of starting the fall term. No classes have been canceled as a result of the activity, Haas said.

Lauren Lesser, a sophomore, said, “It's a lot of excitement in the air, on top of the usual starting-school excitement.” From her bench on the green, she could see an MSNBC crew setting up the stage for tomorrow night's episode of Chris Matthews’ Hardball. Like most students, Lesser didn't get a ticket into the auditorium but plans to watch with others from Leede Arena.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2007 11:41 AM
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