Forum a Milestone for Country and University

About three years ago, only 400 students were able to attend the first presidential debate. Last night, however, more than 1,600 students had the opportunity to be a part of history at last night’s Democratic candidate forum hosted by Univision. As the first presidential candidate forum directed at the Hispanic population, the nationally televised forum stridently acknowledged the critical role that Hispanics will play in the 2008 presidential election.

That being said, it seems odd that the Republican candidate forum, initially scheduled for Sept. 16, was “postponed” due to the candidate’s “scheduling conflicts.” Sen. John McCain was the only one to RSVP while the rest practically ignored Univision’s invitation. Do the Republicans not realize just how instrumental it is to win the Hispanic vote if they want to win the presidency? Or can the poor response be attributed to the GOP’s not-so-savvy attempt to please their base by not participating in a Spanish-language debate? Either way it is a disappointment.

One thing is for sure: when you are invited to such an event, you clear your calendar for that day. This is not one of thousands of typical debates to already occur this year-this is history.

If one of the parties was going to opt out of the forum, it should have been the Democrats. After all, they are “boycotting” the state of Florida on account of its early Jan. 29 primary election, which goes against national party rules.

Although yesterday’s watch parties were not as well-publicized or organized as we would have hoped (Hillary’s was even canceled Saturday night), we realize that was due to last-minute coordination by the campaigns and not because of poor university foresight. On that note, the rain ruined an Obama rally on the empty lot by Mahoney/Pearson.

The event also fulfilled its purpose. Though we’ve heard most of the answers before, one interesting moment came when Gov. Bill Richardson broke the rule of no Spanish, of which he said he was not aware. He made a good point in requirement of English-only response, but surely he knew of this beforehand.

Overall, President Shalala and other university officials should be applauded for hosting another successful event. UM can undoubtedly deliver politics to its students; it did in 2004 and it has ever since.

We have proven our ability to host large-scale political events time and time again. And the venue, the BankUnited Center, has made a name for itself as well. Venues Today, a national magazine, ranked it the second best venue in the state last April.

So here’s to the success of last night’s forum and here’s looking forward to holding another presidential debate in 2008!