By Gregg Hoffmann
The Aug. 23 GOP presidential debate is a big event, but it is not the first such debate in Wisconsin. Illinois also has a history of hosting such events.
Here’s a rundown of major debates:
–A Democratic presidential debate was held in Milwaukee on Feb. 15, 2004. The New York Times led the story on it with:
John Kerry sailed through the final debate before the Wisconsin primary — and perhaps one of the final debates of this Democratic presidential nomination fight — as Howard Dean and John Edwards repeatedly sidestepped opportunities to criticize him on Sunday night. It was another compelling sign that the party was closing ranks around Mr. Kerry as its likely nominee.
After a week in which Dr. Dea, had sporadically attacked Senator Kerry while campaigning across Wisconsin, he declined to do so for a statewide television audience on Sunday. Instead, with many Democrats predicting that Dr. Dean’s campaign would effectively end by Wednesday if he lost here, Dr. Dean deflected question after question about the opponent he had once attacked with relish.
The debate was the 14th for the Democrats during the election cycle. It was held at Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University. Sponsored by Journal Communications, WTMJ-TV, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MSNBC, it was moderated by Mike Gousha of WTMJ-TV, joined by Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Gloria Borger of CNBC/U.S. News & World Report and Lester Holt of MSNBC
–The Fox Business Network held a Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee on Nov. 10, 2015. Taking part were former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ky. Sen. Rand Paul, Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump.
Moderators were Gerard Baker (The Wall Street Journal), Maria Bartiromo (Fox Business Network), and Neil Cavuto (Fox Business Network).
The American Presidency Project archived a transcript of the debate at here.
An excerpt from that transcript shows the back-and-forth that became common in debates involving Trump. This involved Kasich, Trump and Bush on immigration and job creation:
KASICH: In the state of Ohio, the state of Ohio, we have grown 347,000 jobs. Our unemployment is half of what it was. Our fracking industry, energy industry may have contributed 20,000, but if Mr. Trump understood that the real jobs come in the downstream, not in the upstream, but in the downstream. And that’s where we’re going to get our jobs.
But Ohio is diversified. And little false little things, sir, they don’t really work when it comes to the truth. So the fact is, all I’m suggesting, we can’t ship 11 million people out of this country. Children would be terrified, and it will not work.
TRUMP: … built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars. I don’t have to hear from this man, believe me. I don’t have to hear from him.
BAKER: Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump, you yourself — you yourself said let Governor Bush speak. Governor Bush?
BUSH: Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate. That’s really generous of you.
Twelve million illegal immigrants, to send them back, 500,000 a month, is just not — not possible. And it’s not embracing American values. And it would tear communities apart. And it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is.
And even having this conversation sends a powerful signal — they’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now when they hear this. That’s the problem with this. We have to win the presidency. And the way you win the presidency is to have practical plans. Lay them out there. What we need to do is allow people to earn legal status where they pay a fine, where they work, where they don’t commit crimes, where they learn English, and over an extended period of time, they earn legal status. That’s the path — a proper path… [applause].
— PBS held a Feb. 11, 2016 Dem presidential primary debate at UW-Milwaukee between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The two clashed on health care and called for criminal justice reform and pay equity for women.
Sanders had hung in the race against Clinton by winning the New Hampshire primary. You can watch that debate by clicking here.
The state has hosted many other major debates for statewide positions. Gousha has moderated 16 of those. They featured candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, Wisconsin Supreme Court, Wisconsin attorney general, Milwaukee county executive and Milwaukee mayor.
The Wisconsin Broadcast Museum has archived several TV debates since 1998. They include Tommy Thompson’s debates on the way to his 14 year as governor, with Democrats Tom Loftus in 1990, Chuck Chvala in 1994 and Ed Garvey in 1998.
An unprecedented recall debate between incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett is archived from 2010. Several other governor and Senate debates also are included.
Chicago debate history includes Kennedy vs. Nixon
Chicago, on the southern end of what now is being called the Conventions Corridor, has a history in presidential debates. Interestingly enough, Chicago did not host any of what many look at as the mother of debates – Lincoln vs. Douglas.
Those debates actually were for an Illinois Senate seat in 1858, but both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas also were presidential candidates two years later when Lincoln surprisingly won the GOP nomination in 1860 in Chicago and then went on to win the general election. The series of seven debates in 1858 were face-to-face debates, with no moderator. They lasted three hours. Considerably more in-depth, and less glitzy compared to today’s debates.
The events were held in Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton. Not Chicago.
Chicago got its reward a century later, however, in what many consider the first modern era – make that TV era – debate – John Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon in 1960. It was held on Sept. 26, 1960, in Chicago at the studios of CBS’s WBBM-TV.
Howard K. Smith moderated the event and included a panel composed of Sander Vanocur of NBC News, Charles Warren of Mutual News, Stuart Novins of CBS, and Bob Fleming of ABC News.
Many say that Kennedy used the TV medium much better than Nixon. The latter refused to use TV makeup, exposing a 5 o’clock shadow and wore a suit that blended into the debate background. After the debate, Kennedy moved from a small deficit to a slight lead over Nixon.
Wendell Willkie became the first 20th century presidential candidate to challenge his opponent to a face-to-face debate when in 1940 he challenged President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Roosevelt refused.
In 1948, a presidential candidate radio debate was held in Oregon between Republicans Thomas E. Dewey and Harold Stassen during the party’s presidential primary. The Democrats followed suit in 1956 with a televised presidential primary debate between Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver and in 1960 between Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.
Roosevelt shot outside Milwaukee hotel
Perhaps the campaign event that most stood out in history happened before a speech, not a debate in Milwaukee in 1912. Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot at close range by saloonkeeper John Schrank while greeting the public in front of the Gilpatrick Hotel.
History Network reported: “Schrank’s .32-caliber bullet, aimed directly at Roosevelt’s heart, failed to kill the former president because its force was slowed by a glasses case and a bundle of manuscript in the breast pocket of Roosevelt’s heavy coat—a manuscript containing Roosevelt’s evening speech. Schrank was immediately detained and reportedly offered as his motive that ‘any man looking for a third term ought to be shot’.”
Roosevelt, who suffered only a flesh wound from the attack, went on to deliver his scheduled speech with the bullet still in his body. “After a few words, the former ‘Rough Rider’ pulled the torn and bloodstained manuscript from his breast pocket and declared, ‘You see, it takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose.’ He spoke for nearly an hour and then was rushed to the hospital,” History reports.
Despite his vigorous campaign, Roosevelt, who served as the 26th U.S. president from 1901 to 1909, was defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson in November in a three-way race with incumbent President William Taft. Schrank was deemed insane and committed to a mental hospital, where he died in 1943.