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Grinnell to host Joe Biden and Tom Steyer for CNN town halls

The College will host two separate CNN town halls next week with Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Tom Steyer.

The town halls will be held on back-to-back nights on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. Steyer’s town hall will be first, while Biden’s will follow on Monday. Both will be held in Roberts Theater.

According to Professor Barb Trish, political science, who was privy to some of the organization of the event, students may notice quite a bit of increased activity as CNN begins preparation for the town halls throughout the week.

“We’ll probably all feel the presence of CNN, and I know that the College is alive to try to keep at a minimum the disruption this poses for the day-to-day operations of the College. First and foremost, we don’t want to disrupt classes and academic activity.”

For Eli Shapiro ’22, classes are a secondary concern. When first learning of the event, Shapiro said, “Oh shit! … Fuck classes. Sorry for using that profanity twice, but I’m all for the CNN town hall. I will be there. I will do what I can to participate in this historic event.”

Annie Estes ’22 also expressed excitement when learning of the event. “I think it’s exciting that they are coming to this campus. I think it’s exciting regardless of who the candidate is.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field nationally with 28 percent of the vote, according to a recent ABC News and Washington Post poll. But in Iowa, Biden sits in fourth behind Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, according to a New York Times and Siena College poll of the state.

Tom Steyer, a California businessman who made his name by using millions of his own fortune to fund a “Need to Impeach” campaign against Donald Trump, currently sits at 2% in Iowa, according to the same poll.

Grace Duffy ’22 said she was excited about the town halls as well–but only if she has the opportunity to go. “I wish that it would be more like a typical town hall where it was open to everyone,” she said.

While the town hall will not be open to the public, there will be opportunities for students to attend the event, according to Trish. Students will have the opportunity to submit a question to CNN, and if their question is selected they will be given a ticket. While Trish could not confirm that students without a question may be able to attend the event, she suggested it was a possibility.

“It’s pretty much out of the hands of the College, but [CNN] has a process that makes sense to me,” said Trish.

Asked if he’d be interested in asking either of the candidates a question, Shapiro responded, “Oh fuck yes!”

Beyond actually participating in the town halls, Trish said she sees value in observing the activity around them as well. “It’s something we don’t get to see very often—how this world works. Even if we’re just sort of a fly on the wall, looking at how these people go about doing their jobs, how news gets produced—I think it’s really a neat thing for us to be able to see.”

UPDATE (11/12/19): The CNN Town Hall featuring Joe Biden was interrupted by climate protesters. Read News Editor Seth Taylor’s recap of the event here, or read about the protests and what happened after the cameras stopped rolling. And check out Arts Editor Abraham Teuber’s live coverage of the event on Twitter here.

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  • S

    Sybil PlumleeNov 9, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Seth: Just because Eli says those things does not mean you need to quote them. The words distract from your story. Please be professional.

  • G

    Gregory LeeNov 7, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    C’mon, Eli. We know you have a better vocabulary than that. Use your big boy words.