Exactly which of the Republican presidential contenders will be on stage is still unsettled, but the venue for the first 2016 GOP debate in Florida is certain: It will take place at the University of Miami just five days before the Sunshine State’s critical March 15 primary.
Scheduled to be held in Florida months ago by the Republican National Committee, the Thursday, March 10 debate presented in partnership with CNN and Google will take place at the BankUnited Center—with a few hundred UM students and other members of the UM community sitting in the audience.
“This is going to be a very exciting night for the UM community,” said Rudy Fernandez,” chief of staff to the president, and vice president for government and community relations. “The viewership of these Republican debates has far exceeded past election cycles so it is a unique opportunity for University of Miami students, in particular, and other members of the UM community to experience something historically important. Florida is once again poised to play a pivotal role in electing our next president.”
UM is no stranger to being in the thick of history in the making. As Fernandez noted, the University has hosted a number of key political events, including the 2004 general election debate between President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry and Univision’s first-ever Spanish-language debates, one for Democratic candidates and the other for Republicans, in 2007. All were held in the BUC, as were Univision’s historic Town Hall meetings with President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012.
“We’ve always believed in bringing events like this to campus,” Fernandez said. “It enhances the civic education of our students. It’s added value. We want them to be engaged in the democratic process. We want them to understand the issues facing our country, and we want them to vote.”
Just how many students and other UM community members will get tickets is still undecided. The Republican National Committee, which happens to be chaired by 1998 UM School of Law graduate Reince Priebus, will control the ticket distribution but a few hundred tickets will be allotted to UM, Fernandez said.
Another Miami Law alumnus is also likely to be on the stage, as are two other candidates with deep ties to South Florida. Florida’s junior senator, Miami native Marco Rubio, graduated from Miami Law in 1996, while the current GOP frontrunner, businessman Donald Trump, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush both have homes and long histories in South Florida.
Sponsored by CNN, The Washington Times, and Salem Radio, the Florida debate will feature the RNC’s new partnership with Google and Harbinger Outreach, which are introducing new tools, technologies, and interactive elements to enhance live coverage from the Republican debates.
“We are very proud to be partners with CNN and Google in such a historic event,” Fernandez said.