CNN debates in Cincy? Don't bet the ranch
CNN is in the early planning stages of staging nationally-televised debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for president somewhere in Ohio, once the traveling road show moves on to the Buckeye State.
Republican and Democratic party officials in Cincinnati are lobbying to have them here, as is Doug Moormann, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's vice president for government affairs.
February 27 and 28 are the most likely dates CNN is looking at for back-to-back debates, assuming that both parties' nominations are still up for grabs by then.
Moormann said that Cincinnati will take its best shot at landing the debates, but said he believes it is much more likely that Columbus or Cleveland will end up being the host city.
Two reasons for that, Moorman said:
First, CNN might be more likely to choose a venue smack in the middle of the state, and that means Columbus.
Secondly, Moormann said, he knows that the Ohio Republican Party chairman, Bob Bennett, who will be stepping down from that post after the primary, is pushing hard to hold the debates in his hometown of Cleveland.
CNN is working with the Ohio Democratic and Republican parties on a venue. The two local party chairmen, Tim Burke of the Democrats and George Vincent of the Republicans, are lobbying their respective state parties to steer the debates here.
Moormann said Cincinnati is offering various locations - one of the theaters at the University of Cincinnati, the Museum Center at Union Terminal, or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
"The idea of Barack Obama, who could be the first black nominee, debating in the Freedom Center is pretty exciting,'' said Moormann. "It's off the charts."
Moormann and UC officials pushed last year to have one of the fall debates between the presidential nominees held in Cincinnati, but failed to convince the Presidential Debates Commission.
Cincinnati will keep pitching for the CNN primary debates, Moormann said, "but I don't have huge hopes."