You can't fault them for timing. Officials at the University of Denver spent Presidents Day unveiling preparations (and a fancy new logo) for the 2012 Presidential Debate to be held there. The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) selected DU to host the first of three 2012 Presidential debates on October 3, 2012.
A freshly launched website for the DU Debate also includes a countdown timer and a calendar of 8 events leading up to the debate itself. Events include a re-enactment of the 1858 debate between Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglas, and a series of lectures.
DU expects upwards of 3,000 journalists to attend and cover the debate, and has also made 150-200 tickets available to its students via a raffle. Unfortunately, tickets will not be available to the general public.
"The University is honored to be selected as one of the four institutions to host a presidential or vice presidential debate," said officials in an earlier press release. "It is a national recognition of our dedication and determination to be a great private university dedicated to the public good."
As a battleground state, Colorado's growing importance in the 2012 elections likely aided in the selection process. While the national effect of winning a debate may only be a 5 percent bump in the polls (at best), Colorado political scientists expect the debate will greatly increase engagement locally.
"Colorado used to be considered safe for Republican candidates. Somewhere around 2004, it became a lot more competitive," said Seth Masket, a political science professor at DU, to The Denver Post. "The difference for Colorado, though, is that it is local and will get a lot more attention than a typical presidential debate. People who are normally not engaged are more likely to pay attention, take sides and vote,"
The Associated Press reports subsequent debates will take place October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York; October 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida; and a vice presidential debate October 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
For candidates to be invited to debate, the CPD mandates:
In addition to being Constitutionally eligible, candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.
The formats of the four debates have not been announced yet, though the CPD is considering more internet initiatives.