CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper and CNN Political Director Sam Feist prepare for the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate.
St. Petersburg, Florida (CNN) – The final countdown has begun. Members of the audience have started to arrive at the Mahaffey Theater at the Progress Energy Center in St. Petersburg. Hundreds of audience members are waiting to pass through the metal detectors and take their seats inside the debate hall.
Outside the building, in the CNN Election Express Bus, the mood is serious as Anderson goes through the questions and his follow-ups.
It’s not lost on any of us that eight men taking the stage tonight are running to become the leader of the free world. In our mobile control room, the director and her team are making sure everything is perfect with the set, cameras, lights and microphones. In live television, everything has to go like clockwork. When the candidates and their entourages arrive they will go directly to their green rooms for any last minute preparations.
Then, at 8 pm eastern time, they will join Anderson on stage to answer your questions. As these things go, the candidates hope for a win, will settle for a draw – but a loss at this point, with voting in Iowa and New Hampshire early next month, could be a major setback. It promises to be an exciting night. We'll have complete reaction and analysis immediately following the debate on a special edition of AC 360. See you at 8pm.
– 360 Associate Producer Jack Gray