So why the *hell* are we holding this little vice presidential debate shin dig in Danville, Kentucky?
I mean, try and point to Danville on a map. That’s right, you can’t. Not many people can.
Full disclosure: I am a proud Kentuckian. I attended two of Kentucky's finest universities. I consider Lexington, Kentucky to be one of the most beautiful little corners of the world.
I am baffled at why Danville is the host of tonight's vice presidential debate.
The VP debate, of course, will be held at the liberal arts Centre College, about a 30 minute drive from Lexington, the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.
It’s a quaint little town, with a population no bigger than 16,000. Centre College pretty much makes Danville … other than that … well there’s an Applebees.
But of all the places in America, Centre College in Danville, Kentucky was the best they could come up with? We’re not talking about a vital swing state or a booming media center here.
Kentucky does hold some political appeal: it’s a red state, but has only had one Republican governor in the last four decades. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is, of course, one of the two senators representing the state (he’s a big deal) along with rising libertarian star Rand Paul. Kentucky can be considered a Southern state and a Midwestern state (though Kentuckians consider themselves full-fledged Southerners) … so the presidential commission killed two geographic birds with one stone there. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, a point both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in tonight’s debate would do well to bring up to fire-up the Kentucky crowd.
But why Centre College? Why not one of the state’s bigger name schools like the University of Kentucky (8 NCAA national basketball championships, thank you) or the University of Louisville (one of the best political science programs in the nation, thank you)?
Well, Centre actually held the VP debate in 2000 — becoming the smallest town to hold a presidential series debate — and it turned out really, really nice for everyone. Commission Executive Director Janet Brown said that Centre’s selection was based on several factors: “First, Centre did an outstanding job of hosting the 2000 vice presidential debate. Second, Centre’s principal players from that debate are still at the College, and we value that experience. Finally, Centre’s facilities, as good as they were in 2000, are vastly improved now.”
Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. The 2010 Open Doors Report, published by the Institute for International Educational, ranks the College second in the nation for percentage of students who study abroad.
Centre enrolls more than 1,300 students on a 160-acre campus.
As a University of Kentucky alumni, I used to visit friends at Centre often. It’s a nice little place, but it is smaller than my high school, so it’s also a pretty tight-knit —group (which get annoying).
I went to a couple of Centre parties — most notably the “air guitar” party, where you literally air guitar to songs in front of 100 students or so … mildly to heavily buzzed, of course.
There were a few other parties that were NSFW. One guy tried to give me a shot of pure grain alcohol from a fire extinguisher once ....
Centre has a tradition — "the flame" — where students run around one of their campus statues naked. I did not participate in this event.
Centre is a fine educational establishment, but, (again, speaking as a University of Kentucky and University of Louisville alum) the students can be a little too proud. In Kentucky, Centre students hold a reputation, one where they consider themselves to be some sort of Harvard of Kentucky, which is very debatable (and which, for the record, the University of Louisville actually is).
This debate and the 2000 debate have been a boon for the college. Applications from would-be students rose about 20% in the year after the 2000 debate, and out-of-state applications have steadily increased since.
The same is expected to happen after tonight's Biden-Ryan battle royale.
The small school in Danville, Kentucky, is about to get some significant media exposure.
Some 3,200 media outlets/ personnel will be in attendance in Danville. Check this out, from right outside the debate:
One thing is clear after this VP debate: Centre College, not Biden or Ryan, will be the big winner on Thursday night.