A Look Behind the Scenes at the CNN Republican Presidential Debate 

Serving as a hub for national politics, CNN once again selected Drake University to host a nationally televised presidential debate on January 10, 2024—this time a GOP primary debate between former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, five days before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. 

From transforming Drake’s Sheslow Auditorium into a nationally televised stage, to Drake students getting an up-close look at what goes into a presidential debate, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what went into this exciting evening on campus.  

CNN Takes Over Drake’s Campus 

Drake’s campus was buzzing with activity ahead of the Republican debate as hundreds of reporters, two hopeful candidates and their teams from across the nation descended upon Des Moines. Though Sheslow Auditorium was the debate venue, other locations on campus like the Olmsted Center were transformed into a spin room where everyone came together after the debate to break down the evening’s big event.  

Hear from Rachel Paine Caufield, Professor and Co-Chair of Political Science, as well as Drake students about the transformation that took place across campus.  

Dozens of Students Involved in Pulling it off 

From helping with setup and serving as stand-ins for candidates during event run-throughs, to singing the national anthem and being interviewed by national media, Drake students played an important role in the CNN debate.  

More than 40 students were hired to work for CNN during debate week, serving in various capacities. Others volunteered to be involved in the opening ceremonies of the debate. For instance, Daniel Bowers, an offensive lineman on the Drake football team, who happens to be a Fine Arts major and classically trained singer, was able to showcase his passion for performing by singing the national anthem to kick off the debate. 

Check out the unique engagement opportunities students experienced during debate week.  

Politics at Drake University 

Des Moines and Drake University have long been a hub for political and civic engagement on the national stage. Drake’s history of hosting nationally televised debates is one of many ways in which students gain unparalleled opportunities to participate in the democratic process—making Drake the school of choice for politically minded students everywhere. 

See why Drake is the place to be for anyone interested in politics.