"We had students, faculty and staff involved in preparing for the debate and volunteering to work during the debate, and we had an outpouring of community support and involvement, from letters and poems and makeshift posters by school children to total support from local elected officials, business people and civic organizations."
Although Centre failed to get a CPD debate in 2004, the college plans to use much of the same playbook it employed that year and in 2000 in this year's effort, Trollinger said. And that town-and-gown atmosphere will again be the first page of the book, he said.
Centre is one of 19 applicants for a 2008 debate. The CPD said it will announce four sites in late September of this year, including three presidential debates one vice-presidential debate. The debates have been held in September and October of the election year. Centre is pushing hard for a presidential debate, but applicants do not specifically apply for one or the other; the applications are for a "general election debate."
Meanwhile, Centre is preparing for a visit by CPD officials in July; the commission made a preliminary visit in the fall. Also, the college's steering committee is involved in fundraising. It needs to raise $1,350,000 for the fee that the CPD charges each debate host. The amount is almost three times the $550,000 the CPD charged Centre for the 2000 vice-presidential debate. The money is used to cover debate setup and production costs.
In addition to the Centre-Danville, small college-small community environment, Trollinger and Wyatt, who served as co-chairs of the debate steering committee in 2000, cited other advantages:
The number of competitors is much smaller this year.
In 2000, Centre was among 43 applicants. This year there are only 19, and of those, Trollinger believes only Centre and 13 others have a realistic shot at winning a debate.
"Historically, the commission has only selected colleges or colleges in combination with community organizations," he said. "Of the 19 applicants, five are not colleges, so we can, in effect, eliminate those as real competition."
Centre is one of only a handful of experienced debate hosts among the applicants. Only five of the 19 applicants have served as debate hosts, and that short list includes Centre.
"Only Wake Forest, Washington University, the University of Miami (Fla.), Arizona State and Centre have debate experience," Wyatt said. "The CPD is familiar with Centre and, although it did not award us a debate in 2004, it was lavish in its praise of our 2000 debate and continues to mention how well things went and what a good job we and the community did."
"We've done it before, and we did it well before, and I think that is a major factor in our favor," Trollinger said.
Two features of Centre's 2000 debate plan were adopted by the CPD and are now required for all debate hosts.
"In 2000 Wayne King, director of facilities management, devised a plan to provide a backup electrical power system to prevent an outage during the debate," said Trollinger. "And we also developed the idea for what we called a 'speakers' park' where people of any and every political persuasion were given a place outside (the debate venue at Newlin Hall at the Norton Center for the Arts) to speak out.
"It's quite a feather in Centre cap that those two things that we developed and implemented are now required by the commission."
The proposed site of Centre's media center is now bigger and better.
The two structures that top the CPD's checklist are the facility where the debate would be held and the facility where the media would file stories and conduct post-debate interviews. By all accounts, 1,500-seat Newlin Hall was given high marks in 2000, but there were concerns about the lack of space in the old Sutcliffe Hall.