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Presidential debate winner: The University of Denver

No matter how the presidential candidates do in tonight's debate -- whether Mitt Romney continues to do his imitation of Bert on Sesame Street or Barack Obama trips over his teleprompter -- a clear winner has already emerged: The University of Denver.Denver has long been the Sally Field of cities, proclaiming "They like us, they really like us" whenever there's a positive mention of this city in the national media. But as those positive mentions have come increasingly often (and increasingly easily), city boosters have gone from Gidget-giddy to grownup.

As Denver learned during the 2008 Democratic National Convention , putting on an event with international significance -- and doing it well -- pays off in dividends that the city continues to collect.

If tonight's debate -- which will start just as the sun sets over the Rockies, offering great B-roll shots -- comes off without a technical hitch, it will continue to benefit Denver.

And for the University of Denver, in particular. The private school anted up a reported $1.6 million to put on this first presidential debate, and has spent weeks sprucing up, changing out the school's logo and grooming the campus. But DU expects its efforts to result in increased respect -- and increased enrollment in the years to come.

That increased enrollment will have to balance out the students fed up with the circus that's closed much of the campus for the last several days, and cancelled classes altogether today. DU will also have some making up to do with neighbors who've lost access to their neighborhood -- and other travelers are likely to get cranky when I-25 shuts down tonight.

But when people think back to the days when the DNC occupied Denver, few remember the traffic jams. They remember how alive this city seemed, how the mall was packed at midnight. They remember the beautiful shots of the Rockies.

Tonight, with any luck, the cameras will even capture the first few flakes of snow, sending the Colorado tourism industry into spasms of delight.

They like us, they really like us.

In late August 2008, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in the culmination of an amazing five days in Denver. Four years later, Patricia Calhoun talked with many of the people responsible for bringing the Democratic National Convention to town for "Still a Mile High."



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