All Access: The Republican Presidential Debate


It may not have been obvious to the political pundits, but everyone who was in Hanover on October 11 knew Dartmouth was the real winner of the economy-focused Republican Presidential Debate held that evening in the Hopkins Center. 

The political pageant that came to town provided Dartmouth students, faculty, staff, and area community members with a close-up view of democracy—the small “d” version. New Hampshire is a small state that gives its residents a big voice in picking the next president, and Dartmouth continues to be an important stop for presidential hopefuls.

“Hosting presidential candidates is a Dartmouth tradition,” says President Jim Yong Kim. “All undergraduates experience a presidential election and gain real-life lessons in politics during their time here. This is one of the many ways we bring the world to Dartmouth.”

As the campus returned to its usual rhythms and the candidates pursued the campaign trail elsewhere, Dartmouth Life asked members of the community to share their own perspectives on debate day at Dartmouth.

“When Dartmouth hosts a New Hampshire primary debate, students get a look behind the scenes to see what it takes for a person to rise to a position of leadership in a democracy. Many of them go further to take on leadership roles in enabling Dartmouth to host the debate, working alongside faculty and staff at the Rockefeller Center and other offices to help produce the day’s events.”

Economics Professor Andrew Samwick, director of The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, which organized events supporting the debate

“I thought it interesting that Rick Perry showed up to the Dartmouth debate on the economy and jobs and said he needed more time to come up with a plan. On reading his subsequent proposal, it is clear he needed even more time.”

David Blanchflower, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Economics

“The tenor of this debate was civil, which is a good thing, but did we really learn anything new? There seems to be an aversion to challenging the status quo, or to venture beyond the scripted response. Today’s voters, especially young voters, are yearning to see authentic leadership—a person who is willing to speak his or her mind without regard to poll numbers. If that leader were to emerge in either party, we would see a landslide victory because the nation is hungry for moral leadership.”

By the Numbers

The Republican Presidential Debate at Dartmouth

8 candidates—Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum

2822 people entered the ticket lottery for 200 seats

27 related events at Dartmouth October 9 through 11

200 student volunteers, filling 20 different jobs

351 requests for credentials from members of the media

17 TV production and satellite trucks on campus

5 Dartmouth faculty interviewed by debate partner Bloomberg Television during the live broadcast from campus 3 student political organizations—Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians—participating in debate planning

25 mentions of Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan during the debate

40 Dartmouth security personnel (28 staff and 12 contract), 16 police officers, 1 state police dog team, 4 EMTs, 1 doctor, and 2 fire fighters on duty (in addition to each candidate’s security detail)

1 surprise endorsement, when N.J. Gov. Chris Christie announced his support for Mitt Romney’s campaign and then arrived at Dartmouth to attend the debate

6 presidential events hosted by Dartmouth beginning with the 1984 Democratic debate, at which candidates drew their seat assignments out of a hat owned by Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, and talk-show host Phil Donahue led a Q&A with the audience

71 degrees high temperature on October 11, a flawless fall day in Hanover

Aine Donovan, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College

“It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on the lead-up to this debate. I became interested in public policy and politics after taking a class with Professor Ron Shaiko. It is the best class I have taken at Dartmouth. Professor Shaiko helped our entire class become more informed about the political process and helped us understand how important New Hampshire is for the 2012 campaign.”

John Turro ’12, student coordinator of the debate and Student Watch Party host

“It was really cool to meet some of the candidates, even though I don’t agree with their politics.”

Chelsea Stewart ’12, president of the Dartmouth College Democrats

“I watched the debate from Washington D.C. It all brought me back to the January 1988 GOP debate I attended freshman year, with Vice President George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Pat Robertson, Pete DuPont, and Al Haig. And of course it was fun to see Rick Perry weighing in on matters after the debate from Beta fraternity. Can’t think of a more appropriate place for the Texas governor to mess up the century when the American Revolution took place.”

Jake Tapper ’91, senior White House correspondent for ABC News

“The Green was packed with protesters, candidate supporters, and reporters. Any student with an interest in politics could learn a great deal about primary politics without ever setting foot inside the debate itself.”

Deborah Brooks, associate professor of government

“I was most surprised by how little the slate of candidates appear to have learned from the generous conservatism of Ronald Reagan—with the notable exception of Mitt Romney. Romney defended an interventionist posture for government when he said that he would act as necessary to save the financial system. No one else—amazingly—would confess to that. And Romney implicitly defended a welfare safety net when he criticized Rick Perry for allowing the number of poor children without health care increase on his watch as governor. You can bet Perry, who was probably proud of the fact that his state doesn’t give much help to poor children, didn’t see that coming.”

Russell Muirhead, the Robert Clements Associate Professor of Democracy and Politics

“It was great to be able to share Dartmouth with the people from Bloomberg that I worked with all summer. I had learned a lot about New York from them, and it was great having them here and being able to show them around. I felt very proud of Dartmouth.”

Lillian Wilson ’12, summer 2011 production assistant for debate partner Bloomberg News in New York City and contributor to debate planning and news coverage.

See the slideshow on Dartmouth’s flickr site.

Susan J. Boutwell