ORANGEBURG, S.C.—The very first 2008 presidential primary debate, tonight at South Carolina State University, is bringing a boom to this campus town.
Most of the motels on the strip leading into campus are sold out. Rental cars were hard to get at the airport in Columbia.There are 450 domestic reporters and 150 from international outlets here. Parts of the campus has been transformed to outdoor sets for standups and MSNBC’s “Hardball” and NBC’s “Nightly News.”
The debate itself will take place inside the Martin Luther King Auditorium at the school. The candidates will stand behind podiums. The moderator is NBC’s Brian Williams. the aim is for a fast and free flowing 90-minute session.
There will be no opening or closing remarks. That’s something White House hopeful Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) would have preferred but did not get. There is no set of topics, so the eight Democrats have to be ready for anything. The answers are supposed to be one minute.
The candidates who are senators—Biden, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.)—will travel to South Carolina this afternoon because they have the big Senate vote on the Iraq supplemental legislation today.