SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The University of Utah announced Monday it will be the stage for one of next year’s presidential debates. The debate will be held at Kingsbury Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2024.
“I’d never imagined that we would get an opportunity to host a presidential debate right here in our state,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, in a news conference.
The governor and other state leaders, such as Utah State Senate President J. Stuart Adams and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, spoke to reporters about how excited they are for Utah — and Salt Lake City — to host the third presidential debate.
“It’s the last debate, it may be the most significant debate to decide who is the next president of the United States,” Adams said. “That’s not only big for Utah, that’s big, hopefully, to every American.”
The decision to place the debate in Utah was made by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has sponsored all the general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.
This is the second time the University of Utah has hosted a national debate on its campus. In October 2020, former Vice President Mike Pence and then-challenger Kamala Harris debated policy on the U of U campus.
The debate, which took place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, was held in front of a small group of ticketed guests. Harris and Pence were separated on the stage by more than 12 feet and plexiglass barriers.
The 2020 debate cost roughly $6.5 million. The state of Utah put up about $2 million, and the university covered the rest. Officials at the University of Utah expect the upcoming debate to cost about the same as the last. They plan to work with community partners to raise money through donations to cover the costs.
While the debate is still a year out, it will touch on matters of vital importance to the country, from domestic economic policy to curb inflation to the wars raging in the Middle East and Ukraine.
“This is a big debate,” Adams said. “It’s fitting for it to be in Utah.”
President Joe Biden is expected to be the Democrat nominee as he seeks a second term in the Oval Office. Recent poll numbers show Biden’s approval rating among Americans continues to be low, with an October poll showing 56% disapproving of the president’s handling of his job compared to 44% who say they somewhat or strongly approve.
Meanwhile, the Republican nominee for a presidential run still remains in question. Former President Trump remains the clear favorite for the nomination, according to polling numbers from FiveThirtyEight, despite his ongoing criminal trials in New York and Georgia. Florida Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, once seen as Trump’s biggest opponent, has slipped in the polling numbers on FiveThirtyEight steadily over the past year, before plateauing in October.
Several others are seeking the Republican nomination, including Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, CEO Ryan Binkley, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, previously withdrew his bid for the Democratic ticket, opting instead to run as an independent. He joins Libertarian Party nominee Chase Oliver, Green Party nominee Jill Stein and activist Cornel West on the list of independent or third-party candidates seeking the White House.