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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Presidential debate at Washington University not in WA

Local political junkies may recall that in 2007, Spokane had a brief flirtation with the presidential debate extravaganza when Washington State University put in a bid to host one at the Veterans Memorial Arena.

When the selection committee that sorts through the bids offered WSU the 2008 vice presidential bid,  the university declined. They were hoping for the big Kahuna, a presidential mano-a-mano, and didn't want the second-string event.

Some city officials defended the decision, saying the cost of sponsoring the debate -- about $1.35 million to Presidential Debate Commission and maybe $1.5 million more in prep work for the Arena and other areas -- wasn't worth the veep debate and its normally smaller draw.

Little did they know that the 2008 vice presidential debate would be the most anticipated, if not the most consequential, of the matchups, featuring Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin. It was held at Washington University in St. Louis, which stepped in when WSU declined.

So why bring up old news? This week, the sites for the 2016 presidential debates were announced, and Wash U, as it is known in St. Louis, was selected as the site for one of the presidential face offs. 

Now some folks will say that school has such a history of hosting the debates -- 1992, 2000, 2004 as well as 2008 -- making it an easy pick. 

But there may also be a lesson for Wazzu, one Spokane learned from the NCAA basketball tournaments. Before you can host the opening rounds of the Men's Tournament, you might have to show you can handle the Women's Tournament.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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