Running Mate Blog

By Jason Meucci
On the campus of UNLV in Las Vegas

Celebrity visits and big events around these parts are nothing if not common. But major Presidential debates - that's pretty big, even for Vegas.

Or is it? I talked to some students and staff at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to see where this (politically) star-studded event ranks on the buzz scale of a campus that's in the shadow of the city's famed Strip - and has played host to countless big events.

For at least the small sample of folks I talked to, it's almost just another night in Vegas. A pair of sophomore girls said they weren't even aware the debate was happening on their campus until they started seeing signs about restricted parking.

Ahhhh, parking - that actually was the one common thread of everybody I talked to - students and staff alike. You see, CNN's massive production - some may say "takeover" of the Cox Pavillion - and much of the surrounding parking lots around it - seem to have many on this commuter campus just as worried about where they're going to park as they are about presidential politics.

But there are those who are very excited - even if they're sad they don't have a ticket. Amy works in the Career Services Department calls this "the biggest event of the year" on campus. She says that's because a presidential campaign should appeal to a much broader audience than the relatively focused demographic that attends many of the concerts and shows that often play in the same venue.

Amy admits she's especially excited that it's the Democrats that are here because she's a "strong liberal" - and may not have even watched if it was the Republican candidates coming to town.

But she's still undecided about which democrat she'll vote for - either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. That's where her friend and fellow graduate assistant Diane jumps in - "Hillary! It's gotta be Hillary - she's a Clinton!"

No surprise that some people seem focused on choosing between the democratic frontrunners - but the "little guys" matter too - at least to Adam. He's a grad student in UNLV's Hotel Management program - with an undergrad degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan.

So you'd think he may be really excited about this big debate coming to campus. Not so. However, he did say he really wanted to hear a lot from second-tier candidate Bill Richardson - because he thinks the former New Mexico Governor has the best environmental plan.

But other than that, Adam says he's become "disenchanted" with what was once his passion - politics. He said he would watch the debate - but will be in class - and wasn't overly disappointed.

In fact, his summation of things spoke right to the heart of my original question - "around here, it's just another event."

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