Mark Your Calendar: First New Hampshire Presidential Debate Set

Posted December 14, 2010 at 6:11pm

The candidates have yet to materialize, but at least the debate schedule is starting to fall into place.

A collaboration of New Hampshire and national media outlets this afternoon announced plans to host a June 7, 2011, debate in the Granite State for those who decide to seek the GOP’s presidential nomination. As of today, there is plenty of speculation but no announced candidates in the fight to defeat President Barack Obama.

The time and location of the debate hasn’t been set, but the sponsors note that the candidate clash, set for roughly 17 months before Election Day 2012, will be the “first debate in the ‘first in the nation’ primary state of New Hampshire.”

“It is clear that New Hampshire will once again play a critical role with its first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary,” said Joseph W. McQuaid, president and publisher of the Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper. He called it “an early look at what promises to be an interesting field of Republican candidates.”

For those who think this might be early, think again. Politico has already announced plans to host the nation’s first GOP primary in collaboration with NBC News at the Reagan Presidential Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif. Organizers are still playing with the date but say it will be in the spring of 2011. That would presumably be before the New Hampshire event next summer. South Carolina was home to the earliest debate in primary history among the Democratic candidates in April 2007.

Major questions remain over who might participate in the debates.

The rumored candidates often mentioned include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, among others.