From Farmville, Virginia –
The center of the American political universe is focused on this small college town a few hours drive southwest of Washington, D.C., as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia meet here on the campus of Longwood University.
If you knew that Longwood was here – you get extra bonus points, as this small town – population of just over 8,000 in the last census – is not exactly a big focal point, even in the state of Virginia.
Main Street in Farmville is a blizzard of activity on this debate day, as local residents are watching a parade of journalists and political tourists.
This small town is actually home to two schools – Longwood University and nearby Hampden-Sydney college, which happens to be on the of last all-male colleges in the U.S.
Longwood is a small four year liberal arts school, with about 5,000 students – and everyone who wants to be is fully involved in this VP debate is getting that chance on campus.
Eating lunch down Main Street today from the school, there was nothing else that anyone was talking about other than the debate, the security, and more.
“We got interviewed and everything!” one woman excitedly said on her cell phone while eating lunch. “There’s a whole lot of reporters just talking to everyone.”
The campus itself looks it has seen a nice infusion of money in recent years, as the health and fitness building has been magically transformed into Debate Central.
Inside, we have the usual setup for reporters – long rows of tables for reporters, producers and technicians, and all sorts of televisions to carry the debate in the Media Filing Center (remember, most of us don’t get to these debates in person.)
Also set up is the post-debate Spin Room, where surrogates from each side will come in to push their spin on what happened between Pence and Kaine.
Outside, it’s the usual smattering of live setups for the cable TV networks, along with a gigantic platform for television reporters to do their standups near the actual debate hall.
Back inside, there is a “Biergarten” – which will allow some reporters to get a beverage and some food during the day.
If you look closely at that picture, there is a big purple blob on the right, that’s a rock climbing wall – unfortunately, it won’t be open and available for reporters here at the debate.
Or, maybe it would have been better to see if Pence or Kaine could scale the thing.
Kaine has a bit of a home field advantage here, since he was the Governor of Virginia – I even heard people on the street talking about having met him before.
One interesting part of this debate is the location of it, as Farmville is not a big area for hotels. Most reporters are staying either in Richmond or Lynchburg, both about an hour’s drive away.