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Road to the White House: All eyes on Belmont for 2020 presidential debate

The last chance voters will get to see the Republican and Democratic frontrunners square off on the issues before voting day will take place on a Belmont stage, in what was billed as “the most important election ever.”

“Once again, Belmont writes history,” said Commissioner of the Department of Tourist Development Mark Ezell.

University President Bob Fisher announced at a press conference Friday that campus will be “transformed” as thousands of journalists arrive on campus to cover the second presidential debate ever to be held in Tennessee.

(From left to right) Student Government Association President Meghan Hickok, Congressman Jim Cooper, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, University President Dr. Bob Fisher, University Chairman Marty Dickens and Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

Fisher has bid for this opportunity every election season since Belmont hosted former President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in 2008. At that time, it presented huge opportunities for students, faculty and staff, and Belmont has only grown since then.

“Both times we’ve been privileged to host this at Belmont,” Fisher said. “It’s getting hard to brag because I’m just so overwhelmed with gratitude and thankfulness for the opportunities we get here.”

With “between 60 million and 80 million” viewers watching the debate, Belmont’s aptitude in the global spotlight will be tested in one of the biggest events the university has ever seen.

Fisher also said that “hundreds of hours” have already been put into fully realizing the campus’ potential as a stage for the event.

“It shows that Belmont does a good job in structuring the type of environment that is necessary for a solid debate to take place,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Blackburn said it was “tremendously exciting” to collaborate with Belmont for the event, and that she looked forward to seeing Democrats and Republicans work together.

That sentiment was echoed by student leaders.

Belmont’s College Republicans chapter president Cassi Phillips expressed enthusiasm for what she called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I’m excited to have a part in what I imagine will end up being another historic election.”

Bailyn Dupont, chapter president of Belmont’s College Democrats, has also been looking forward to this very opportunity for a long time, she said.

“I was really anticipating this even before I came to Belmont, just because I knew it was the site in 2008 and a back-up site in 2016.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the other debate sites Friday, with the University of Notre Dame, the University of Michigan and the University of Utah all serving as hosts alongside Belmont.

The debate at Belmont will take place 10 days before the election, after early voting has started in Tennessee, making Belmont the stage for many voters to make their final decision, Blackburn said.

Mayor John Cooper thanked the Belmont community and said he looked forward to Nashville being on the world stage once again.

“Let’s get excited, because we’re going to be playing a big role in world history coming up.”

This article written by Justin Wagner. Contributing reporting by Lydia Fletcher, Ryder Guido and Steven Boero. Video produced by Abigail Bowen. Photos by Chloe Eberhardt.

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