A 2020 presidential debate in Utah? It just might happen

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The University of Utah may be the center of the political world for at least one night during the 2020 presidential race.

UtahPolicy.com has learned the Utah Debate Commission will apply to host a presidential debate in 2020. Additionally, the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes the major televised debates every four years, sent a representative to Utah late last year for a preliminary site visit. The site visit came at the request of the Utah Debate Commission.

Scott Howell, the co-chair of the Utah Debate Commission, confirmed the visit to UtahPolicy.com as well as the plans to apply to host.

“I see it as something similar to the Olympics when the attention of the nation would be on Utah,” said Howell. “It would be a marvelous opportunity for the state.”

Utah nearly hosted a presidential debate in 2016. As UtahPolicy.com previously reported, the Commission on Presidential Debates wanted to hold the debate focusing on foreign policy at the BYU campus, but logistical issues prevented that from happening. During that same interview, Howell said Utah was in the running to host a debate in 2020.

There are several requirements for organizers to meet in order to be considered to host a presidential debate. Among them:

  • A debate hall of at least 15,000 square feet.
  • Nearby hotels that can provide 3,000 rooms.
  • Adequate air and ground transportation networks.

Howell said they are planning on pitching the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah to host the debate. Not only is the venue used to host big events, but the TRAX light rail system is a big plus.

The event would also carry a big financial price tag, as Utah organizers would be on the hook to provide a substantial amount of funding. Howell did not have an estimate of how much it may cost, but said it would take a significant amount of fundraising.

It has not been uncommon for the CPD to hold presidential debates in the intermountain west over the past few election cycles.

  • Las Vegas was the site of the third debate in 2016.
  • Denver hosted the first presidential debate in 2012.
  • The final debate of the 2004 election cycle took place in Tempe, Arizona.

There are traditionally 4 debates during the election year, three for the major-party presidential candidates and one for their running mates.