Media descends on Boca ahead of Lynn presidential debateby Jeff Greer | October 22nd, 2012
BOCA RATON — More than 3,000 media members are expected to arrive in Palm Beach County for tonight’s foreign-policy-themed presidential debate at Lynn University. But the morning before the debate remained relatively calm as media slowly trickled onto the small Boca school’s campus.
MSNBC posted its on-campus set outside of Christine’s, an on-campus cafe, and drew the most attention of passersby early Monday morning. Student volunteers stood and watched while workers set up sound equipment and the stage around as Morning Joe, the channel’s morning talk show that was broadcast live from Mizner Park, blared on the set’s myriad television screens. Veteran NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell arrived on the set around 8:30 a.m., just moments before students volunteering for the Obama campaign showed up to hand out signs.
Network broadcast trucks filled the parking lot adjacent to the media center, which is set up in the de Hoernle Sports and Cultural Center in the middle of Lynn’s campus. The major networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) opted to keep their morning shows up north, instead showing feeds with correspondents. ABC’s Jake Tapper and NBC’s Chuck Todd were both at Lynn before the sign came up. Todd tweeted out a photo of the debate hall this morning, and will discuss NBC News’s new poll results from Ohio, which show President Obama leading Mitt Romney by five points, on tonight’s episode of NBC Nightly News. He’ll also host his show, the Daily Rundown, from Lynn, with guests Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Bill Burton, Lindsey Graham and Dan Balz, the Washington Post‘s long-time political reporter who was working outside Christine’s ahead of his appearance.The media filing center was still relatively empty around 10 a.m., though the lights for the two spin corners were on. Security, as you’d imagine, was intense. Reporters for the Associated Press, National Public Radio, CNN and other outlets were seen around the room as early as 6 a.m., and any student walking around campus was a prominent target for “Who are you voting for and why?” interviews with media members. Romney’s corner remained relatively simple, with three Romney signs and a banner that said “Believe in America.” His campaign is expected to hammer home its recent message on Libya, which is that the Obama administration’s response has left serious questions about foreign embassy security in the wake of the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans and about the administration’s true success with the “Arab Spring.” How Romney responds to questions tonight about the recent reports on potential face-to-face meetings with Iran over its nuclear program will be another key post-debate question for his surrogates. Obama’s was much more involved in terms of sheer signage numbers, with his “Forward” slogan on a banner stretched out over a wall that featured several small signs that gave answers to the largest sign of all of them, “Change Is.” The president’s surrogates will face similar questions about Libya and Iran, and they’ll no doubt bring up the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the removal of American troops from Iraq and their gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan as part of their post-debate spin.
Ultimately the conversations here in the media center and around campus are hushed but excited. Campaign signs lined the streets leading into Lynn, and there’s strong belief that tonight’s debate could go a long way toward deciding the election in two weeks. In recent presidential elections, debates have generally been dismissed as difference-makers, but this year’s have a different vibe, and that much is evident from the buzz around the media room and campus.