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Activities set to involve students in debates


To be certain, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has been anything but dull. One of the greatest reasons for this has been the numerous, nationally televised debates. Writing on the subject, Wolf Blitzer claimed: “Presidential historians may write one day that this was the year of the debate.”

From Tim Pawlenty’s early timidity on attacking Mitt Romney, Rick Perry’s recent “…oops” moment and Newt Gingrich’s strong debate performances, the GOP debates have undoubtedly shaped the course of the nomination race.  It would be fair to say that the candidate who wins the nomination will be a strong debater, due to the influence they have had thus far.

This Saturday, Drake will have the wonderful opportunity to take part in this important process. Drake will host a Republican presidential debate in Sheslow Auditorium, which will be televised nationally on ABC and hosted by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos. Drake students will be involved in the debates in various ways. The Brocal Chords — an a capella group on campus — is singing the national anthem, and 25 students will be interning with various media outlets, including ABC. Yet there will be three other kinds of participation that students will take part in that are equally important: debate watching parties, an online straw poll and “Pancakes & Politics.”

Sophomore Sam Pritchard, the community outreach senator-at-large, was selected as the chair of the Election 2012 ad hoc committee and has played an active role in planning the debate watching parties, as well as the straw poll.

“The idea to host these parties came from the lack of debate tickets available to students,” Pritchard said. “(We) expect at least 300 students to fill these lecture halls during our parties.”  Food will be provided for those students that attend.

There are two different places that Drake students can watch the debates: Meredith 101 and Harvey Ingham 104.  Doors will open at 7 p.m. for both parties, and the debate begins at 8 p.m.

“Our hope is that students will attend these parties, watch the debate, then vote for their favorite candidate so that their voice can be heard,” Pritchard said, tying the debate watching parties to the straw poll that will take place online on Saturday.

The online straw poll will serve as a measure of which candidates Drake students support most at this point in the race. Each student will receive an email with a unique link that they can follow to vote for his or her favorite candidate.

According to the Drake Student Senate website: “Students will receive an email in their inbox linking them to the Straw Poll. They may vote before, during or after the debate. Polls close Saturday, Dec. 10th at 11:59 p.m.”

However, the event that will kick off the busy Saturday of presidential politics — “Pancakes & Politics” — starts bright and early at 10 a.m. in Olmsted Center.  It is another way that the Student Senate and the Election 2012 ad hoc committee is trying to facilitate student involvement in the political process.  Senate’s website describes the event as an opportunity for students to “talk politics with campaign staff, media personalities and maybe even some special guests” that are going to be announced via twitter by Student Senate (@DrakeStuSenate).

If Wolf Blitzer’s prediction comes true — and this year is remembered as the “year of the debate” — then Drake will have the honor of participating in such an important process.  Pritchard and Student Senate are hoping for high student participation. Make sure to attend and check out all of the events in order to show that Drake students are concerned with national issues.


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