DU's already got a case of presidential debate fever

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Barack Obama will be speaking in Golden Thursday, marking the umpteenth recent visit to Colorado by a presidential candidate or surrogate. And he'll be back again on October 3, when he's scheduled to face Mitt Romney in 2012's first presidential debate -- at the University of Denver, which is already gearing up for one of the biggest events in the institution's history. Get details and see a video about "the swingiest of the swing states" below.

The fall edition of University of Denver Magazine, on view in its entirety below, features the debate on its cover, and the corresponding article traces DU's path to landing the event. Here's an excerpt:

The University's road to the debate beganin March 2011, when the chancellor and Board of Trustees authorized the institution to make a bid to become a debate host for the 2012 election season. Eleven other schools submitted applications, among them debate veterans Hofstra, Washington University (in Saint Louis) and Wake Forest University.

The CPD had a long list of criteria: an air-conditioned hall of at least 17,000 square feet; nearby parking that can accommodate thirty television remote trucks, trailers and satellite trucks up to 53 feet in length; a 20,000-square-foot (minimum) media filing center in the same facility.

But meeting the CPD's minimum specs may not have been the only reason the University landed the big event, says Associate Professor Seth Masket, chair of DU's political science department.

"At least part of it has to be that Colorado has become a pivotal state in presidential elections," says Masket, author of No Middle Ground: How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures (University of Michigan Press, 2011). "While it used to be reliably Republican, the state has become very competitive over the last decade, and it's seen as the key to the increasingly competitive Rocky Mountain region. By some measures, Colorado is the 'swingiest' of the swing states. It's well balanced between Democrats and Republicans, and it has shown a tendency to switch allegiances from election to election. So a lot of the campaign will be waged here in Colorado."

Also included is this graphic highlighting upcoming tie-ins to the debate, all of them detailed on a new DU web portal, Debate2012.DU.edu:

Among the items on the website right now is a video keyed to Masket's "swingiest of the swing states" line -- although it's not all that swingy itself, given that it features a panel discussion on the subject. But also spotlighted is a timeline of presidential visits to DU, which began with William Howard Taft dropping by on October 3, 1911 -- 101 years to the day before the first presidential debate in Colorado history.

Look below to see the DU magazine -- the debate article begins on page 26 -- plus the "swingiest" video and the presidential-visit timeline:

University of Denver Magazine Fall 2012 issue

100 Years of Presidential Visits:

While Oct. 3 marks the first time that the University of Denver -- or, indeed, Colorado -- has hosted a presidential debate, it is hardly the University's first encounter with the nation's highest elected office.

Over the years, the University has been visited a number of times by sitting, future and former U.S. presidents. The most frequent visitor so far has been Bill Clinton, who has been to campus three times.

Here is a timeline of past DU presidential visits. An exhibit about presidential visits to the DU campus will go up in mid-September in the Ritchie Center.

1911: William Howard Taft made the first presidential visit to campus in 1911. Coincidentally, Taft came to DU on Oct. 3 -- the same date as the upcoming debate. Taft knew Chancellor Henry Buchtel through Republican party politics. Buchtel had served as the governor of Colorado just a few years earlier.

1950: Three years before he became the nation's 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower was awarded an honorary doctorate at the Aug. 23 summer Commencement ceremony. Eisenhower spent a lot of time in Denver because it was the hometown of his wife, Mamie. He also knew then-Chancellor Albert Jacobs, who had been provost at Columbia University when Eisenhower was president of that institution.

1960: On Feb. 4, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy came to Denver in an appearance sponsored by the DU Social Science Foundation. He did not actually visit campus; his speech, "The Global Challenges We Face," was delivered downtown at the Denver Auditorium. The Denver Post at the time described Kennedy as "a possible candidate for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination."

1961: In an event sponsored by the DU Young Republicans League, former vice president and future president Richard Nixon spoke to an audience of 4,000 at the DU Arena on Sept. 13.

1966: President Lyndon Johnson received an honorary degree at the summer Commencement ceremony on Aug. 26 in the DU Arena.

1979: Future president Ronald Reagan spoke at the arena-fieldhouse on campus on April 8. Though he was not yet an official candidate, it was widely speculated at the time that Reagan would soon announce his plans to run for the presidency. President Bill Clinton appears with daughter, Chelsea, to support his wife's bid for president during a campaign stop at the University of Denver.

1997: President Bill Clinton was part of the G8 Summit that met June 21 at the DU-owned Phipps Mansion. The building and its grounds were sold to private buyers in 2010.

2000: President Clinton appeared at Sturm Hall April 12 for a town hall meeting on gun control.

2008: On Jan. 30, a past president and a future president appeared on campus on the same day, both at Magness Arena. Future President Barack Obama made a morning appearance and former president Bill Clinton made an evening campaign stop as part of wife Hillary's presidential campaign. Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention in August.

More from our Politics archive: "Obama in Boulder: Libertarian zealots, Romney bashing and (maybe) a 3OH!3 sighting."

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