Hofstra to host 2012 presidential debate

Hofstra University hosted a debate between U.S. presidential

Hofstra University hosted a debate between U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in October 2008. (Oct. 15, 2008) (Credit: Newsday File Photo / Kathy Kmonicek)

Hofstra University was chosen Monday to hold a presidential debate next fall -- making it one of only two schools to host back-to-back debates since the modern debate system was created more than two decades ago.

Hofstra was home to the 2008 debate between Democratic Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, and its coup in snaring a repeat was matched only by Washington University in St. Louis, which held debates in 2000 and 2004.

Hofstra will hold a "town meeting" format debate on Oct. 16, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced. The first debate of the 2012 presidential season is set for Oct. 3 at the University of Denver, and Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., will host the final debate on Oct. 22. There will be a vice-presidential debate on Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ky.

"I am absolutely delighted that the commission has chosen to return to Hofstra University for one of America's most important political events," Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said Monday.

"It was an extraordinary experience for our students and faculty in 2008 and allowed our community to witness, firsthand, the democratic process. I am so pleased that another generation of Hofstra students will be able to witness history and become involved in an active and meaningful way," Rabinowitz said.

Presidential debates are eagerly sought by schools and localities hoping to highlight their attributes. The Oct. 15, 2008, debate at Hofstra was watched by an estimated 56 million viewers, and some 3,000 journalists from around the globe descended on the Hempstead campus for the third and final debate of the election.

The school tapped alumni and other supporters to help raise the $3.5 million for preparations that included erecting platforms, laying cables and installing video monitors. Rabinowitz said David S. Mack -- a Hofstra graduate, real estate developer and civic activist -- will help cover the cost of the 2012 debate.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Hofstra law graduate, called the commission's announcement "terrific news, as presidential debates help to stimulate the local economy, attract new business and promote the many attributes of Nassau County."

The debate announcement came just three months after Hofstra welcomed the first class of its new medical school. Hofstra is making a concerted effort to make itself a premier educational institution and to raise its national profile.

The universityalso hosted a raucous 2010 debate, sponsored with Newsday and News 12 Long Island, in the race for New York governor. Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo won the election, but the debate made an instant celebrity of Jimmy McMillan -- the elaborately whiskered, black-gloved candidate of the Rent Is 2 Damn High Party.

Rabinowitz said he was not daunted by the task of winning a debate again this year. "I don't want to sound like I'm bragging . . . but as soon as it was over, I knew we wanted to do it again. We went over what we did right and what we did wrong and there weren't too many wrongs."

Hofstra said ticket availability will be "extremely limited," and that all the tickets the commission allocates to Hofstra will go to students in the days before the debate. In 2008, some 250 to 300 tickets were distributed.

The commission is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has organized every presidential and vice-presidential debate since 1988.

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