June 2nd, 2007
04:50 PM ET
12 years ago

The debate begins.... sort of

Workers put the final touches to the debate set Saturday.

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) - The debate is underway. The candidates are answering questions and the camera operators are recording all the action.

But, wait... it’s only Saturday.

Actually, it’s just a rehearsal and the candidates are just fill-ins played by local college students hired by CNN to help assist the production of the debate. The real debate involving the Democratic presidential candidates begins Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET.

The debate is being held in an arena on the campus of Saint Anselm College just outside of Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city. The stage sits atop of a hockey rink, so feel free to say that the candidates will be skating on thin ice.

But, seriously, final preparations are underway for Sunday’s debate. The final trimmings are being put on the stage, and the rehearsals will continue into the evening.

A couple of hundred yards away, CNN engineers and technicians are working on the lighting in the spin room. That’s the room - actually, a gymnasium - where the candidates go after debates to better explain to the working press what they just said minutes ago during the debate. And surrogates for the candidates also flood the spin room to tell how their candidates kicked butt during the debate. That of course, is spin.

Next door to the spin room, in another gymnasium, is the filing center. This is where more than 600 journalists from around the country and the world will watch the debate, and report on just what they saw. There are only a few of us working journalists here right now, but tomorrow night this room will be jammed packed. Right now engineers and technicians are milling about, setting up monitors and testing the audio systems.

Up on the quad at Saint Anselm College, the CNN reporter and sub anchor locations are up and running. And alongside the quad is the just arrived CNN Election Express. I’m off to board the bus, and I’ll have a full report in my next posting.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: New Hampshire
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