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'08 Debate Sites Set

Don't worry Mississippi. You'll be relevant soon, along with Missouri, Tennessee and New York.

The three might not be hotbeds of activity during the 2008 presidential primary contest, but they were announced today as the sites of the general election debates. That will make them must-visit places for the media throng that covers such things.

In a statement today, Paul G. Kirk Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the co-chairs of the presidential debate commission, said the three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate would take place as follows:
* Presidential debate, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS
* Vice Presidential debate, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
* Presidential debate, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2008, Belmost University, Nashville, TN
*Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

In selecting the four locations -- and Kentucky and North Carolina as backup sites--Kirk and Fahrenkopf dashed the hopes of some civic boosters in New Orleans, who had campaigned hard on the Internet to make sure one of the debates came to their city.

A website called Friends of New Orleans had pitched the city as a good place for the debate. They had said a presidential debate would help revitalize the city after Hurricane Katrina. In an editorial in the Washington Post last August, the paper said that "Hosting one of the debates would be an enormous psychological boost for New Orleans."

But Fahrenkopf said the commission's search process -- which included experienced technical experts and directors of past debates -- picked what they thought would be the best sites. "We went out of our way with New Orleans. We sent the team back a second time. We try to pick he best four. There are 12 universities who are disappointed."

The commission said that the Oct. 7 presidential debate would be held as a town hall, with the two party nominees answering questions from the audience. For the first time, questions submitted by people over the internet will be accepted.

The other two debates would be more traditional, but with a twist: they will each be divided into eight ten-minute "issue segments" to provide a more serious discussion, organizers said.

"The public deserves to hear and see the candidates offer and defend their positions on the critical issues facing our country in the most thoughtful and in-depth manner that television time constraints will allow," the commission said.

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  November 19, 2007; 5:36 PM ET
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