Politics & Government

On eve of Biden-Ryan debate, at least 100 Centre students get coveted ticket

Centre College is also hosting a debate festival to let the community take part in the historic event. The festivities begin on campus at noon and the debate starts at 9 o'clock.
Centre College is also hosting a debate festival to let the community take part in the historic event. The festivities begin on campus at noon and the debate starts at 9 o'clock. Herald-Leader

DANVILLE — City Hall is festooned with red-white-and-blue bunting. The debate hall has been checked for lighting and sound. And downtown merchants have decorated their windows.

It's game day for Centre College and Danville as they host their second vice presidential debate in a dozen years.

On Wednesday, the eve of the nationally televised debate between Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, people in the city and on campus said they were eagerly anticipating their night in the spotlight.

"The electricity in the air has just skyrocketed," said Centre College senior Tommy Munoz, who played the part of Ryan during a mock debate Wednesday in the Norton Center for the Arts, where the actual debate will be held Thursday night.

Centre announced during a drawing that 100 students will get inside the hall to see the debate in person. The names of an additional 25 students were drawn as well, but they won't know until Thursday whether they will get in the hall.

The name of freshman Joseph Durbin, 19, of Nicholasville, was the first to be announced by Centre President John Roush.

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," Durbin said. "It's going to be awesome."

Centre junior Rachel West, 20, of Oneida, Tenn., was also elated to hear her name called.

"It's really amazing to be able to see what we've been working toward all year" come to fruition, West said. "It's not felt real, and now I get to go to it."

West said she wants the candidates "to really discuss policies rather than dancing around them, which I think is what happens at debates and what happened at the last presidential debate."

Centre administrators said the liberal arts school is ready for the event dubbed "The Thrill in the 'Ville II."

"It's going remarkably well," said Richard Trollinger, vice president for college relations, of the preparations. "It's so much larger and more complex than it was in 2000. ... But there have not been any glitches."

Sound and lighting checks were conducted in Norton's Newlin Hall with Centre students as stand-ins for Biden, Ryan and moderator Martha Raddatz.

Ben Boone, 22, of Nicholasville, played the Biden role.

"It was a little bit intimidating, obviously, to be sitting in the seat that Vice President Biden will be sitting in," Boone said. "When you're in the lights and the cameras, you feel really pressured to perform, because that is essentially what the debate is. It's a performance. So being able to interact in that setting really helped us to realize the stress these candidates are under, and that it's not just a normal conversation, but they're speaking to all of America."

Alex Birmingham, 21, of Lexington, was the Raddatz stand-in. She said the three had studied the policy positions of the candidates, but during the mock session they were told to discuss something that was more comfortable for them. So they discussed Centre and sports.

Birmingham plans to apply to a couple of law schools, but being a TV broadcaster was something she once thought of pursuing.

"So if law school doesn't work out, this could be another option," she said.

Meanwhile, downtown retailers have gotten into the debate spirit.

Political cocktails are being served at Wayne and Jane's Wine & Whisky Bar inside the liquor store known as V-the Market.

"Biden's Tongue" is a mix of Campari, ginger and soda and sells for $7. "Romney's Rickey" combines bourbon, lime and creme de cassis, a liqueur made from black currants. It sells for $7.50.

But co-owner Mary Robin Spoonamore said the most popular drink among customers had been "The Undecided." It's a cocktail of root beer and bourbon cream, and sells for $6.50.

Spoonamore said merchants are "using a little extra energy to put their best face forward on every level: the business level and the personal level."

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