It may not be obvious to the political pundits, but those of us who live and work in Hanover know who the real winner was in the October 11 Republican Presidential Debate: Dartmouth College.
The political pageant that came to town on Tuesday provided Dartmouth students, faculty, and staff with firsthand lessons in democracy—the small “d” version.
Dartmouth is an important stop on the every-four-years’ parade of presidential hopefuls, giving each student the opportunity to gain real-life lessons in retail politics, New Hampshire-style. This small state gives its residents a big voice in picking the next president, providing an unparalleled experience for students.
What follows are stories from debate day at Dartmouth, captured live by Dartmouth Now writers and photographers as the events unfolded.
Monday, 4:30 p.m., Dartmouth Green: The Republican Debate has arrived in the form of a blue tent and towering steel poles that seemed to appear overnight in the middle of the Dartmouth Green. Bloomberg producers and reporters have set up camp throughout the College weaving through the throngs of curious students.
After sifting through more than 350 media credentials, I turned to my politically inclined peer, Kelsey Glatz ’12, to see what she had to say. Kelsey is a government major and one of the lucky few to secure a ticket to the live event.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m most interested in hearing the candidates discuss their views and plans for economic recovery. I’d also love to hear them talk a little more about foreign policy since they haven’t said much about the issue thus far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they primarily talk about recession related issues.” — Jessica Chen ’12
Monday, 5:30 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: On the eve of tomorrow’s Republican Presidential Debate at Dartmouth, moderator Charlie Rose sat in the front row of Spaulding, while all around him sound and lighting crews from Bloomberg and Dartmouth worked on the set designed for the event. A specially made table—a much larger version of Rose’s usual interview prop—occupied center stage. It had just been vacated by a circle of stand-ins, each wearing signs bearing the names of the one of the eight Republicans who will fill the seats tomorrow.
Rose talked with me about the debate: “It’s an opportunity to talk to eight people who want to be president of the United States, to find out what they believe, what it is they know that can create jobs, how they differ, where America is at this moment. We’re there at a table where you can look at each other. It lives and breathes. It’s more organic,” he said. “This is a process we go through to determine how we’ll make our choices. And it’s never been more important, never.” — Susan Boutwell
Monday, 6 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: Matt Harding ’13 doesn’t have a ticket for tomorrow’s debate. But he has something else: A photo taken with Charlie Rose. “He’s an exciting personality. I wanted to see him,” the Tolland, Conn., native told me. So he showed up at Spaulding and was pressed into service as a candidate stand-in, sitting across from Rose on the stage, wearing Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s name card.
Carly Christian ’15, of Abington, Penn., also sat on stage as a member of the practice audience. “I’ve never seen a live political event before,” she said. “It’s reasons like this that I came to this school. There are so many opportunities to learn here.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9 a.m., Collis Common Ground: Student volunteers (from left) Zihan Li ’15, Nathaniel Schmucker ’15, Fakoneiry Perez ’15, and Ellen Daily ’14 take the first shift at the media credentialing center in Collis Common Ground. Perez, who calls herself a “definite political junkie,” is set on getting a photo taken with Mitt Romney. Schmucker, who “just wants to see people,” was there when the Michele Bachmann campaign bus rolled into Hanover yesterday evening.
Among those dropping by Collis were a group representing Oakland University in Rochester, Mich, which will be hosting another presidential debate in less than a month. Dartmouth Public Affairs Officer Latarsha Gatlin, a Michiganer herself, shared a bit of the inside story. — Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., Rockefeller Center: Meet the Campaigns is a GO! The Rockefeller Center is buzzing with excitement over this event. “It’s a great opportunity for students to get up close and personal with campaign staff,” says Sadhana Hall of Rocky. Dartmouth students are invited to meet campaign volunteers and employees from 4 to 5 this afternoon in various locations in Silsby. No preregistration needed. Just show up! — Joseph Blumberg
Tuesday, 9:50 a.m., Hopkins Center: Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim (in photo at right) speaks live with Bloomberg Radio’s Tom Keene. Keene (who took to the ice with the Dartmouth men’s hockey team earlier this week) quizzed Kim about the “Dartmouth Bubble.” On one hand, Kim said, the beautiful surroundings of New Hampshire keep a lot of distractions at bay. On the other, he noted, “We bring the world to Dartmouth—tonight’s debate is an example of just that.” — Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 10:20 a.m., Hopkins Center: Want a behind-the-scenes view of the debate? Bloomberg TV needs volunteers from now through 5 p.m. today to fill the debate seats in Spaulding Auditorium in the Hopkins Center for rehearsals. They are offering a $100 gift card to the first 75 people who respond (you must commit to the full time slot). To sign up, send an email with your cell phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org and put DEBATE REHEARSAL VOLUNTEER in the subject line. — Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Lou’s Restaurant: Lou’s owner Toby Fried is girding for a busy day—he remembers what it was like four years ago, when the Democrats came to town to debate. Yesterday, GOP candidate Rep. Ron Paul’s people stopped by Lou’s to check out the dining space, as well as the kitchen and back exit. Their man has plans for breakfast at Lou’s tomorrow. “It makes it fun,” says Fried. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 11:08 a.m.: Registration for the student-run Leede Arena Watch Party has now closed. A limited number of tickets are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Come to the Berry Sports Center Ticket Office from 12 to 4 p.m. today to pick up your ticket.
The debate will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. by the Washington Post online, Bloomberg and WBIN-TV television, and Bloomberg Radio. Live broadcast viewing (no tickets required) will be available in Rockefeller Center classrooms 1, 2, and 3 and Silsby 28. — Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, 11:15 a.m., Main Street: In the midst of the fanfare surrounding today’s debate, a sign outside Hanover’s Town Hall reminding voters of registration deadlines prior to New Hampshire’s first-in–the-nation presidential primary speaks to what the day is all about: democracy.— Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Dartmouth Green: Now that the morning fog has lifted, Bloomberg Television has a fine fall day to broadcast live from the center of the Green. Catch a view of their operations from the Baker Tower webcam. — Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 11:38 a.m., Spaulding: The student stand-ins’ work is complete, lighting is set, and Dartmouth is ready for the debate. — Office of Public Affairs Tuesday, noon, outside Spaulding: Bloomberg producer Eric Wagner is taking a break from getting the hall ready for tonight’s debate. What is he hoping for? “An intimate, substantive discussion among the candidates. A sense that they’re real people sitting at a real table, surrounded by real people.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 12:15 p.m., Tucker Foundation: Speaking with students in the “What Matters to Me and Why” discussion series at Dartmouth’s Tucker Foundation, Roll Call Creative Editor Morton Kondracke ’60 notes that Washington’s current commuter-town status is a factor contributing to the polarization of American politics. With legislators heading back to their home districts rather than building connections among themselves, “There’s just no agreement in Washington,” he says. Kondracke expressed his hope for changes in the political system that would give moderate and independent voters a more powerful voice. ”Something has got to give, or we’re never going to have the bright future this country ought to have.“
Also joining the discussion from the audience was Don Baer, a co-founder of the non-partisan movement No Labels and former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton.
Kondracke, a Dartmouth trustee, will moderate the pre-debate panel discussion, “Leading Voices: What’s at Stake in the Republican Debate,” tonight at 5 p.m. The event will be webcast live. — Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 12:55 p.m. the Green: “Everyone in the campaign is so friendly,” says student volunteer Tyler Stoff ’15 of Mitt Romney’s staff. Stoff is working as an aide to the campaign and will be accompanying Romney through the rest of the day. “This happens only once in four years and I am happy to be here for it.”— Joseph Blumberg
Tuesday, 12:55 p.m., Tuck School of Business: At the end of a talk on fiscal policy and the impact of debt on the American dream, Pete Peterson—legendary businessman, investment banker, and co-founder and chairman emeritus of The Blackstone Group—has simple advice for Tuck students. “I’m a great believer in finding gifted managers to run our businesses,” he says, adding, “Don’t underestimate the importance of dumb luck.”
Matt Slaughter, Tuck associate dean, concludes the Tuck News Hour talk before a standing-room-only audience: “We try to teach some dumb luck at Tuck. And some other things to help these people go out in the world.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 2 p.m.: We’ve just learned that tonight’s pre-debate panel, ”Leading Voices: What’s at Stake in the Republican Debate,“ will be streamed live on bigthink.com, starting at 5 p.m. EST. Big Think is a ”knowledge forum“ that aims to provide ”big ideas from fields outside your own that you can apply toward the questions and challenges in your own life.“ Sounds like a perfect fit. — Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, 2:04 p.m., Rockefeller Center: Students in Professor Ron Shaiko’s pre-debate focus group recalled their first moments of political awareness. Monica Lewinsky was high on the list. They spoke of their parents shaping their political philosophies and of the criteria the presidential candidate would have to fill. Some offered critical commentary.
Joshua Riddle ’12 said, “I couldn’t vote for anyone who didn’t recognize the seriousness of the debt crisis,” while Marina Villenueve ’13 chided Obama’s election slogan with “Yes you can, just fill in the blank.” — Joseph Blumberg
Tuesday, 2:10 p.m., Tuck School of Business: National reporters and Tuck Students are talking economics with Norman Pearlstine, chief content officer for Bloomberg, over lunch when Erin Wilson, Tuck ’12, asks whether U.S. companies are handicapped in competing worldwide by rising health care costs.
“It raises interesting questions that perhaps will get asked of our candidates tonight,” says Pearlstine, who spent four decades at Time magazine, last as its editor-in-chief.
On a recent trip to visit mid-sized companies in the Midwest, Tuck Dean Paul Danos says CEOs told him health-care costs are keeping them from investing. “They tell me it’s never been like this before,” he says. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 2:50 p.m., outside Lord Hall: Dartmouth electrician Craig Morrill says the hustle and bustle in town reminds him of the crowds here for reunion week. But, says the Royalton, Vt., resident, a 15-year college employee: “Tomorrow they’ll all be gone.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 3:35 p.m., Collis Center: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Joe Rago ’05, editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, picks up his credentials at the media table and talks about today’s big news: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie’s endorsement of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I don’t think anybody saw this coming,” he says. “The laying on of hands of Christie is an important hinge-point” in the race.
As for being back at his alma mater, Rago says, “It’s the first time I’ve been here in a professional context. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit at the college.” Rago is a panelist in the pre-debate event, ”Leading Voices: What’s at Stake in the Republican Debate.“ Live webcast starts at 5 p.m. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 4 p.m., the Green: Hunter Melville was a supporter of Rep. Ron Paul in 2008 and he’s volunteering again. The South Woodstock, Vt., man is holding a Paul sign on the green. “I’ve been at it for a long time and I’m not giving up yet. He’s the only candidate comfortable at a Tea Party rally and an Occupy Hanover rally,” he says. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 4:06 p.m., Hopkins Center Plaza: Got Internet? Thank Frank Archambeault, project manager Kathy Frazer (working her third debate), and the Dartmouth computer network services group, who’ve got almost two dozen expert technologists on the job today. In preparation for the debate, they’ve deployed nearly 300 addition network connections and 150 extra telephone lines—just about what it would take to bring an entire new building online. — Kelly Sundberg Seaman
Tuesday, 4:10 p.m., the Green: Dartmouth Public Affairs intern Jessica Chen ’12 nabbed her chance to interview Bloomberg’s Tom Keene. They discussed Chris Christie’s support for Romney, hot topics for the debate, Herman Cain’s upswing, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Watch the interview above. — Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, 4:35 p.m., the Green: Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim is being interviewed by Bloomberg’s Lizzie O’Leary on the Green, but we can’t hear a word he’s saying. Student demonstrators are shouting: ”Clean coal, hell no, that’s a myth that’s got to go.“ — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 5:05 p.m., Leading Voices panel, Moore Theater: Moderator Morton Kondracke ’60, longtime former panelist of The McLaughlin Group television news show, opens the event with this: “For those of you familiar with The McLaughlin Group, I’m glad to be anywhere where I can get a sentence off without being interrupted.” Laughter. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 5:17 p.m., Leading Voices panel, Moore Theater: Panelists are comparing the passion Republicans had for President Reagan to how people feel about Mitt Romney. “There isn’t a soul on earth, except maybe his wife, who’s passionate about him,” says David Shribman ’76, editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Reaganites who supported The Gipper used to call themselves a Reagan person. “If you can find someone who identifies themselves as a Romney person, call me. Collect.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 6:15 p.m., Hopkins Center: The presidential candidates will soon enter the Hopkins Center and go to their own green rooms for last minute debate prep. Dartmouth Safety and Security’s Jeff Busch has taken up his station at a locked door. He’s one of the officers who will let the Republicans into the building. Is he excited? No, says Busch. “It’s just another detail. I’m trying to do the best job I can while I’m here.” Does he have a favorite in the race? “Not yet.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 6:55 p.m., outside Spaulding Auditorium: “Governor Perry! Governor Perry,” shout two teenage boys and their father, all holding out books and pens as Texas Gov. Rick Perry walked quickly past them. “I don’t think he heard you guys,” said a Hanover police officer working security. Scott Hesketh of Granby, Conn., and his sons Andrew Jackson Hesketh, 13, and Zachary Taylor Hesketh, 16, collect signed books. Scott’s collection includes books signed by presidents Reagan, Ford, Carter, Clinton, and both Bushes. The Heskeths have a shopping bag full of books written by this crop of candidates. Tonight they get books signed by candidates Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul and former Gov. John Huntsman. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 7:25 p.m., outside Hopkins Center: A small, sturdy woman waits for the big, shiny SUVs that are delivering Republican presidential candidates to the back entrance of the Hop. She gets as close as she can to each one and shakes a finger at them shouting: “Remember, you’re in New Hampshire now and we’re a little more liberal here.” The woman, who won’t give her name, says she’s a Hanover business owner. And she has a mission. “We don’t want people telling other people who they can marry,” she tells me. Most of the candidates don’t hear her. Or if they do, they don’t respond. Except for one, former Sen. Rick Santorum, from Pennsylvania. The woman shouts at Santorum and he keeps walking. “To each his own,” he says, rolling his eyes ever so slightly. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., the Hanover Inn: The Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a call to the faithful tonight. “We are here to push back on the Republican presence,” she said. In response to a perceived loss of momentum since the Obama election, the chairwoman says she continues to see an enthusiastic response to the president and says there is still grassroots support. “But we are under siege,” she said. “We need to take a megaphone and amplify the president’s message.” — Joseph Blumberg
Tuesday, 7:20 p.m., Hopkins Center: Things don’t always go as planned. The candidates are arriving late and Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim is waiting to shake their hands. He’s heard that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who today endorsed Mitt Romney, has arrived to attend the debate “and he wants my seat!” said President Kim, — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 8:25 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: Charlie Rose is asking former Utah Gov. John Huntsman about tax reform. What do you think of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, Rose asks. “I think it’s a catchy phrase. In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard it,” says Huntsman, getting a big laugh from the audience. Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, isn’t laughing. He demands an opportunity to respond. And gets it. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 7:56 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: Four minutes to air, Charlie Rose says, “The air is full of excitement.” Chairs are full. The candidates are writing notes at their seats. A few minutes ago, several of their spouses were gathered at the foot of the stage, greeting each other. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 8:35 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: Charlie Rose announces a two-minute break in the debate and the hall erupts in noise, people running for bathrooms, and standing to visit with friends. A stagehand powders Ron Paul’s nose. Another pats the perspiration on Herman Cain’s head and face. Newt Gingrich leans over to talk to Paul, and Mitt Romney talks across the large table to Charlie Rose. Suddenly it is 30 seconds to showtime and Rose calls for the stage to be cleared. “Fifteen seconds,” says Rose, as audience members run down the aisles to their seat. Ten seconds and counting, and—amazingly—the hall is once again still. The debate is back on the air. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 8:57 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: The candidates are seated at Charlie Rose’s interview table based on how they have polled in several recent national polls, with the best seats directly across from Rose. At the last debate, in Orlando, Fla., Mitt Romney and Rick Perry had the best spots, standing at the center of the hall.
Tonight, it is Romney and Herman Cain who have the pole positions. At the fringes of the table are Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum, who are lowest in the polls, then Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and Rick Perry, and finally Cain—who has move up in the polls in recent weeks—and Romney sitting directly across from Rose. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: I’m sitting next to Dartmouth senior Talia Robledo-Gil ’12, an art history major from Miami, Fla. She entered the ticket lottery for the debate and was glad to get a seat. She doesn’t yet have a favorite in the race. “This is a great opportunity, every four years this happens at our college,” said Robledo-Gil. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9:10 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: Gov. Rick Perry started his political career as a Democrat, in the Texas state Senate. Rep. Michele Bachmann just called him out on that, reminding Perry that when Ronald Reagan was president, Perry was working on former Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign in Texas. But Perry had a ready response. He said he was recently talking to Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, who told him that Perry made the switch to the GOP at a younger age than Ronald Reagan—who also started out in politics as a Democrat. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9:24 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: A playful moment. In this phase of the debate, the candidates ask each other a question, going around the table in alphabetical order. It’s Mitt Romney’s turn, but moderator Charlie Rose gets mixed up and turns to Rick Santorum. “No, R comes before S,” Santorum prompts Rose. “You think someone from PBS would know that,” laughs Romney. “And to think I was having fun here,” returns Rose. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9:40 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: In planning the debate, representatives from the campaigns wanted to know what kind of chairs the candidates would use at Charlie Rose’s debate table—how high would the seats be? Would they swivel? In the end, special chairs brought to Hanover for the event weren’t used. The candidates are sitting in what are called “cello chairs,” concert seats used by cello players that slope forward ever so slightly, to allow cellists to more comfortably play their instruments. On stage tonight, the candidates are sitting up straight and tall in the Dartmouth orchestra cello chairs. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 9:47 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: A man just stood up and shouted a question at the stage, pointing at the candidates. I couldn’t understand what he said. Hanover Police detective Frank Moran quickly escorted the man out of the hall without incident, while the man swore at Moran, telling the police officer not to use a taser on him. — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 10:25 p.m., Spaulding Auditorium: The debate is over and government Professor Deb Brooks has some thoughts about how the candidates did: Gov. Rick Perry had a good night “by not messing up, which is an achievement at this point in the campaign,” she says. Did Herman Cain keep his second-place standing in the polls? His 999 tax plan got a lot of air time tonight, but Brooks thinks it’s a gimmick. “It isn’t going to sustain him in second place for long,” she says. And front runner Mitt Romney? “He logged a very strong performance,” she says. “He commands a lot of visual space.” — Susan Boutwell
Tuesday, 10:28 p.m., Top of the Hop: Post-debate, the usually quiet Top of the Hop that overlooks the Dartmouth Green has been transformed into Spin Alley. What did the candidates really mean to say? This is where campaign teams meet the media and try for a translation. — Office of Public Affairs
Tuesday, 10:35 p.m., Wilson Hall: The student focus group has some tantalizing post-debate revelations. They all enjoyed Michele Bachmann’s “turning 999 upside down and the devil’s in the details.” Cain had one message, was on message, and got everyone to talk to him. Rick D’Amato ’13 picked Gingrich as his favorite entertainer on stage while Barbara Richards ’13 thought Gingrich was the most well-spoken. Rick Perry was regarded generally unremarkable. Jack Pinto ’15 thought Romney acted like the front-runner, was treated like the front-runner and to Joshua Riddle ’12 he was the most presidential. Romney got the only unanimous thumbs up vote from the group. — Joseph Blumberg
Tuesday, 10:42 p.m., Beta fraternity: Rick Perry makes an appearance at Beta, one of the Dartmouth fraternities located on Webster Avenue. Governor Perry took the time to take photos and talk with students at this open event. — Jessica Chen ’12
Tuesday, 10:55 p.m., Leede Arena: Candidates Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann all appeared post-debate to greet students at the Watch Party in Leede. Hundreds of students gathered tonight around two giant, drop-down screens to watch the debate as it was happening just across campus in Spaulding Auditorium. The main reactions were uproars of laughter at each mention of Cain’s 999 plan, angry boos at negative references to President Obama, and general applause at many foreign policy recommendations. — Jessica Chen ’12
Tuesday, 11:20 p.m., Spaulding Auditorum: The debate is long over, but another talk at Charlie Rose’s “kitchen table” is taking place before TV cameras on the Spaulding stage, in front of an audience of mostly students. Rose is taping a special edition of his show with a group of journalists and analysts who are talking about the debate. Their consensus is that Mitt Romney did very well. Rick Perry didn’t, and that if Cain hangs onto second place, he is going to face a lot more scrutiny from the press.
And they talked a bit about a politician who wasn’t in Hanover tonight: Barack Obama. What does the president have to do to stay in the Oval Office, Rose asks panelists.
“He needs to figure out a way to get jobs created in this country,” says Dan Balz, national political correspondent for the Washington Post. “He has to manage this problem in a way that recreates some confidence in him as a leader. That’s where he’s suffering the most.” — Susan Boutwell