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Daniels’ role won’t bar Purdue debate bid

– The appointment of Purdue University President Mitch Daniels to the Commission on Presidential Debates this month won’t prevent the school from possibly trying to host one of the debates in 2016.

Daniels said he couldn’t decline joining the commission’s board of directors despite his pledge to stay out of politics after becoming Purdue’s president when his second term as Indiana governor ended in January 2013.

His new position wouldn’t prevent Purdue from bidding to becoming a debate host, Daniels told the Journal & Courier.

“I don’t know that will ever come into play,” he said. “It’s an expensive thing to do. I’m far from sure we’d want to do it. Maybe we get a little leg up, I don’t know.”

Purdue officials considered seeking to host a 2012 debate but didn’t do so because of cost and other concerns.

Todd Wetzel, director of Purdue Convocations, researched submitting a 2012 bid and said no formal discussions had yet been held about doing so for 2016.

“Never before have we had a president of the university have a role on the commission,” Wetzel said. “We’re sitting in a different place than we were previously with respect to the discussion.”

The 6,000-seat Elliott Hall of Music would be a potential debate site, although the nearby Purdue Armory would also likely need to be used as working space for 3,000 credentialed journalists who’ve covered previous debates, said Steve Hall, director of Hall of Music Productions.

Bids won’t be due from potential hosts until early 2015.

Janet Brown, executive director of the debate commission, said Daniels’ involvement wouldn’t give Purdue any advantage.

“It’s neutral,” Brown said. “We’re delighted to have President Daniels on the board. We would welcome a bid that originated with any one of our directors. If a site has the facilities, that is the threshold for (being considered), whether someone has a personal tie or not.”

Brown said the commission usually receives between 12 and 24 bids from hopeful hosts.

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