VP candidates, Centre College prepare for debate

Biden, Ryan to face off Thursday night
VP candidates, Centre College prepare for debate

The political world is descending on a small town in Kentucky for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election season.

The debate at Centre College on Thursday is highly anticipated after last week’s first presidential debate, with voters and political observers anxious to see how Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan slug it out.

Centre College, a small liberal arts college in the city of Danville, about 30 miles south of Lexington, was also the site of the 2000 vice presidential debate. The campus did so well as a location that it was chosen again.

The campus of 1,300 students will play host to the 90-minute debate, which will range from domestic to foreign policy issues.

Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of students waited to find out if they were one of the lucky 100 who would actually get in to watch the debate. The college held a drawing to determine which students would be admitted to the debate hall.

Freshman Joseph Durbin was the first student chosen, and he’s now considering what he may hear from the candidates.

“I’m kind of interested in social issues, so it would be cool to hear them address that,” Durbin said. “I’m interested in hearing what they have to say. I mean, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you have to at least take a chance.”

The debate has lifted the profile of the college.

“Ever since we found out we were getting the vice presidential debate several months ago, it’s been almost electric in the atmosphere, especially for students who are prospective government majors. This last year we had almost double the amount of (government) majors sign up as the previous year, and it might have had something to do with the excitement generated by the VP debate here,” said Benjamin Knoll, assistant professor of government at Centre College.

As far as the political leanings of the campus, Knoll said Centre College’s name offers a good description.

“I was impressed by the extent to which students at Centre College are, a way to put it would be, a bunch of flaming moderates. We have many independents, many moderates. They don’t distinctly have one dominant side one way or the other,” Knoll said.

Knoll said a poll his class has done would divide the student body into a third Republican, Democrat and independent, although everyone at the college seems to call themselves a “moderate.”

Ryan’s press secretary said Wednesday that despite the big stage, Ryan is ready for anything.

“I think you have to expect that he’ll be very aggressive. The vice president is always sort of an attack dog but after the performance that the president put in last week, we know he’s going to be even more aggressive. The congressman has been saying he expects him to come at him like a cannonball, so we’re prepared for that,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s press secretary.

Ryan got into Lexington earlier Wednesday afternoon, coming straight from his debate prep location in Florida.


Biden isn’t expected until Thursday, but his campaign press secretary said that he’s been working hard following the president’s performance last week.

“He’ll be passionate about our plans, the president’s plans and his plans for the next four years. And I think he’ll be ready to hold Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney accountable for some of the misleading statements they’ve made as of late,” said Jen Psaki, Biden’s traveling press secretary.

Ryan’s camp said he’s been working for five or six weeks on preparation, especially because, while this will be Biden’s 19th appearance on a stage like this, it will be Ryan’s first.

Biden aides said they still feel Ryan is an effective advocate for his policies and believe he will be a strong debater.