Why Cobb County Should Push For A GOP Primary Debate Or One In The Fall of 2024

The outline of a Georgia map with the GOP red white and blue elephant in the center

by John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

In 2019, the Democratic Party hosted a stirring debate at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. The resulting attention and energy may well have propelled the Democrats to a narrow win at the ballot box the following year. Republicans should do the same, to replicate their success in 2024. And evidence from a Florida debate shows why Cobb County should pursue this.

It was an amazing night in November of 2019. All of the major Democratic Party candidates showed up to the primary debate. They were joined by some well-known political figures like Stacey Abrams, celebrities like Rosario Dawson, and media personalities like Chris Matthews. In addition to the studios, there were watch parties, and political visits by the major candidates in the area colleges and other locations. For a professor and columnist like me, it was a front-row seat to see firsthand the enthusiasm and momentum this had for the Democratic Party, energy that helped boost the party to narrowly take the state.

The Republicans could use some of that. They bragged about how their first primary debate helped their Wisconsin efforts by holding it in Milwaukee. And the Reagan Presidential Library wasn’t a bad choice, though none of the participants outside of Nikki Haley seemed particularly Reaganesque. I understand what the party is trying to do in Miami Beach in November, though that would have been a better choice earlier this year. But the party should not ignore Georgia as a debate location. Plus, Cobb County needs to push hard to snare one of these prime-time primary contests. They can also bring in some great revenue and publicity for the region.

In the Fall of 2012, Lynn University hosted the final presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. According to a study by Lynn University “the final presidential debate hosted by the school on Oct 22, produced $13.1 million in immediate economic impact for the Palm Beach County economy, including approximately $1.7 million in elevated spending by local residents, increased bed taxes by 22 percent and obtained more than $63 million in publicity value for Lynn and the community, including more than $50 million for the City of Boca Raton.”

The report went on to document the sources of benefits, ranging from facility and operational spending, delegate and media spending (nearly $3 million by their count), and “Ancillary events such as Spin the Vote in Delray Beach and Rock the Vote in Boca Raton, brought out an estimated 13,000 people: 3,190 were non-local and 9,810 were local residents who spent just over an estimated $1.7 million at these events – showing strong local interest in the event.”

There are plenty of places to host such an event. Some will look at Kennesaw State University, of course. There’s also the John A. Williams Theater in the Cobb Energy Center, which seats nearly 3,000. I would also look at the Coca-Cola Roxy, a theater style place which can fit 1,000 more than the Williams Theater, and has many other nearby locations for spillover events. I’ve been to an event which featured both a rally for Senator Raphael Warnock and a Dave Matthews concert at the same venue that evening. Moreover, I’ve been to a World Cup Party there, hosted by Atlanta United, and such a location could produce that high energy the GOP could use.

In conclusion, the Lynn University research showed the result of 33,208 news stories on the event, worth more than $63 million in publicity and millions more in total news circulation and viewership, in social media and web traffic as well, which may not even be fully documented. For those reasons, Cobb County doesn’t need to debate this anymore: it should pursue such a political event.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own, and do not speak for LaGrange College faculty, students, staff or administration. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.