Centre College spent about $3.3 million to host the Oct. 11 vice presidential debate. Was it worth it?
Most definitely, say Centre College officials, and we think they are right. The private college in Danville — one of the top ranked schools of its type in the country — received more positive publicity from hosting the vice presidential debate for the second time than it ever could have received by spending three times that amount on a national advertising campaign.
Centre spokesman Michael Strysick said the publicity value of the attention from the debate between Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was at least four times more than the initial cost.
Strysick says there have been more than 10,000 media hits since the debate was announced nearly a year ago. The media presence in Danville for the debate was as large as the school anticipated. The Commission on Presidential Debates says 3,236 media personnel representing 1,542 organizations were credentialed.
Centre hosted the 2000 vice presidential debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman, and the positive publicity the college and Danville received from that debate made them both want to do it again.
Just as in 2000, the college picked a good year in which to host the debate. While vice presidential debates typically have minimal impact on the presidential race, what little impact they do have on how people vote can make a difference if the race for president is a close one. With a little more than two weeks before election day, the race between President Obama and Mitt Romney is expected to be the closest one since 2000, when Al Gore Jr. won the popular vote but lost the presidency when the U.S. Supreme Court awarded Florida’s electoral votes of George W. Bush. We hope the 2012 race is not as close and as divisive as the 2000 race, but if the Oct. 11 Biden-Ryan debate helped even a few voters to decide how to vote, its impact may be much greater than normal.
But regardless of who wins the presidential race on Nov. 6, Centre and Danville will both consider the night of Oct. 11 as a good one for them. So should Kentucky. With Romney expected to easily win Kentucky, neither the Romney nor the Obama campaigns are paying much attention to this state. In fact, it is safe to say the debate between Biden and Ryan is about the only time the national media will focus on Kentucky during this campaign. Thanks to Centre College we haven’t been completely ignored.