What it’s like behind the scenes of a Presidential debate

ST. LOUIS (MEDIA GENERAL) – It’s a spectacle Americans have come to expect every four years and on the ground at different universities, each of the Presidential debates leave their own distinct mark on the election.

In St. Louis, MIssouri, a state where Republican nominee Donald Trump holds a solid lead in the polls, the center of the political universe will be focused on Washington University. For a college, hosting a Presidential debate offers administrators a unique opportunity to showcase their facilities, their students, and a personal pride in their school.

Security at the highest levels

Presidential debates requires security that rivals what you’d expect to see at the White House or on a military base. At Washington University, journalists received thorough searches of camera equipment, laptops, and personal belongings.  It’s similar to the security we found at the 2016 conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

For students, their university is temporarily turned into a military zone complete with armed guards, helicopters, and large metal fences to prevent any threat from getting close to the debate hall. Any journalist can request credentials but it’s up to the Commission on Presidential Debates to decide who gets access and to which specific facilities.

The Sideshow

The Budweiser Clydesdales, most well known for their Super Bowl Ads, are making an appearance at Sunday's debate in St. Louis. (Mark Meredith / Media General)
The Budweiser Clydesdales, most well-known for their Super Bowl Ads, are making an appearance at Sunday’s debate in St. Louis. (Mark Meredith / Media General)

The Commission on Presidential Debates does not receive financial support from the political parties or from taxpayers – instead the group relies on corporate donations. During the 2016 debate cycle, Budweiser has been one of the most prominent sponsors on the ground. In St. Louis, Budweiser is showing off the famous Clydesdales – the horses most notable for their appearances in Super Bowl commercials.

Journalists, university volunteers, and law enforcement receive access to free food and drinks. Even beer is provided, however most people working at the debate site decide not to partake. To help commemorate the event, Washington University, like others, provides tote bags filled with t-shirts, pens, and various trinkets.

The Global Spotlight

The pictures above showcase how media from around the country and across the globe witness a Presidential debate. Most journalists will watch the debate from an area known as the “Media Filing Center”. At Washington University, a basketball arena has been transformed into a massive newsroom complete with internet, television monitors, and banquet tables.

Networks like ABC, CNN, and FOX News have taken over large areas of the campus to allow their producers to broadcast for several hours at a time. There’s no shortage of famous faces to meet including award-winning reporters like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, FOX John Roberts, and CBS’s John Dickerson.

Local media from around the country are also set up to provide their viewers a familiar face to cover the debate.

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