SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Republican National Committee announced Sunday a Republican presidential debate will take place in Salt Lake City on March 21.
For the first time in it’s history Utah will play host to a presidential debate. The GOP presidential candidates will descend on the Beehive State just one day before the Utah caucus.
“Having the debate in Utah which is one of the centers of the Republicans gravity I think goes a long way in helping the nation figure out – at least on the Republican side – who the nominee should be,” said James Evans, Chairman of the Utah Republican Party.
It’s the culmination of months of hard work as Republican lawmakers couldn’t be more excited to bring the national spotlight to Salt Lake City.
“This is huge!” says Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R), “This is a big deal!”
“I’m excited!” said Congresswoman Mia Love (R), “I’m over the moon because we get to highlight Utah.”
Utah Democrats are also excited to see the GOP presidential candidates in the Beehive state.
“I’m just a little disappointed that some of the serious clowns are already gone because it would have been fun to have all 8 or 10 or 50 of them up there. But, there’s enough left it’s going to be entertaining, it’s going to be fun, and I’m glad they picked Utah,” said Senator Jim Dabakis (D).
Viewers are also looking forward to the candidates coming to the state like Amanda Valdez who says,
“I am not a Republican, but I have to admit this is kinda cool. Not just this but whenever we have the national spotlight on us, I feel like Utah is forgotten about a lot.”
And Ashley Patterson who wrote, “This actually motivates me more to go and vote this year. Kinda shows that they care that Utah is here.”
While others, like Holley Robison, were less than enthused saying, “Nah, I’d rather go to an actual circus.”
Both Democrats and Republicans hope this will make the candidates focus on issues important to Utahns and say this may be Utah’s only chance to shine.
“This may be a once in a life opportunity for us to have a debate here but hopefully not, hopefully they’ll see that Utah is a beautiful state, and obviously it’s a very Republican state. So, maybe the Republicans will want to come back and get the Democrats here too,” said Peter Corroon, Chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
The race for the White House has already shown to be an unusual one, with a non-establishment candidate leading in the polls. Republicans say this year, Utah could be one of the deciding factors in choosing their nominee.
“A lot of times presidential races by the time they roll around to Utah, they’ve come and gone but, there’s still a real race on our hands,” says Chaffetz.
“This is really about winning the White House and making sure that a Republican is in the White House. So, the fact that the debate is here in the state of Utah shows that we’ve been pushing Utah and shows the importance of why it’s important for these people to come to Utah,” says Love.
The announcement came just as ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspended his campaign for the Oval Office, following his fourth place finish in the South Carolina primary with only 7.8% of the vote.
The debate commission has yet to decide in which venue the debate will take place or which network will carry the debate.
Utahns will head to caucus on March 22, where the candidates will be battling for the state’s 40 delegates.