Archive for September, 2015

Putin Brushes Obama Aside and Launches All-Out Russian Airstrikes in Syria

RUSSIA-MILITARY-AIR-FORCE-COMMEMORATIONRussian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside the empty rhetoric of U.S. President Barack Obama by deploying an increasing number of armed forces in the Middle East and launching air strikes to defend Russia’s beleaguered ally Bashar al-Assad.

Russia carried out its first air attacks against Islamic State targets in Syria, hitting arms and ammunition stores and transport and communication equipment, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said by phone. Syrian state-run TV cited an unnamed military source as saying Russian jets struck several Islamic State targets in Syria’s central Homs and Hama provinces. U.S. and French officials questioned whether Russia hadn’t instead targeted other opposition groups fighting Assad.

It’s the second time in as many years that Putin has sought and gained approval to use force abroad as he seeks to carve out a bigger role in global affairs. While his actions in Ukraine last year drew international condemnation, he pushed for a wider alliance to counter Islamic State during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama this week.

“The main task is to fight terrorism and to support the legitimate government of Syria in the fight against terrorism and extremism,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters during a conference call. The Assad government had requested Russian military assistance, he said.

Putin won unanimous approval from legislators in the upper house of parliament to use Russian armed forces in Syria, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday on state television. Russia will use its air force, not ground troops and the mission will be for a limited duration, Ivanov said, without specifying the duration. Strikes will target Islamic State, including several thousand Russians fighting for the militant group who could be a threat if they returned to their homeland, he said.

Russia’s military involvement “helps increase pressure on the U.S. and Europe to accept that the new parameters of a political settlement in Syria must include the Assad regime at the helm of power and that the settlement will be defined by Russia,” Ayham Kamel, Middle East and North Africa director at Eurasia Group, said by phone from London.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed Syria by phone on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who later called for coordination in the fight against Islamic State and presented a resolution at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York. Lavrov called for the world to create a “strong bulwark” against Islamic State. On Monday, Putin told the UN he supports a parallel political transition in Syria, where the Soviet Union deployed about 6,000 troops in 1983 and 1984 to help protect it from Israel.

“Considering the rapid increase in the threat of Islamic State, practical coordination of all anti-terrorist forces must be set up now,” Lavrov told the Security Council. Russia is “ready to establish permanent channels of communication” with the U.S. and other countries fighting Islamic State “to ensure maximum efficiency in the fight against terrorist groups,” he said.

Russian strikes will be in support of operations by the Syrian army and won’t target opposition forces other than those of Islamic State, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the upper house’s International Affairs Committee, told state television.

“This concerns Syria and is not about achieving any foreign policy goals or satisfying some ambitions, as we are regularly accused of by our Western partners, but only the national interests of the Russian Federation,” Ivanov said.

Russia, which has its only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union in the Syrian port of Tartus, has been sending troops and weapons to bolster Assad, a longtime ally. In recent weeks, Russia has deployed more than two dozen fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, surface-to-air missile defense systems and hundreds of troops to a base in Syria, according to U.S. officials.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers in Paris that Wednesday’s strikes didn’t target Islamic State, and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at the UN that the targets had to be verified. A senior U.S. official said Russia had appeared to hit other opposition groups, rather than Islamic State, the Associated Press reported. The official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the attacks publicly, said Islamic State militants aren’t in the western part of the country where the strikes happened.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday instructed his staff to open lines of communication with Russia to avoid any clashes between U.S.-led coalition planes and Russian aircraft. U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Russian officials requested that U.S. aircraft avoid Syrian airspace while Russia starts air strikes.

“The US-led coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned and in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy ISIL,” Kirby said on Wednesday, using an alternate acronym for Islamic State.

Russia would do better to join the existing U.S.-led coalition bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria than start a second coalition in support of Assad, Saudi Foreign MinisterAdel al-Jubeir said. Saudi Arabia supports a political transition away from the Syrian leader, though that could take “a long time,” he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said anyone who provided arms to either side in Syria were “only contributing to further misery – and the risk of unintended consequences.” U.K. Premier David Cameron said his country would look very carefully at the Russian actions, and that if they were part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State, “then that is all to the good.”

“If, on the other hand, this is action against the Free Syrian Army in support of Assad the dictator, then obviously that is a retrograde step,” Cameron told reporters during a visit to Jamaica on Wednesday. “But let us see exactly what has happened.”


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Fiorina Tones Down Attacks on Hillary

Carly FiorinaCarly Fiorina entered the Republican presidential race with a singular purpose: Attack Hillary Clinton.

At the high-profile Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Fiorina ripped into Clinton, challenging her to “name one accomplishment” and charging that she “doesn’t know what leadership means.” She trolled Clinton with a news conference just outside a Clinton event in Columbia. And she launched an entire website,, that funneled visitors to a donation page, once they watched a 54-second anti-Clinton screed.

But that was before her strong debate performances and rapid rise to the top-tier of Republican primary candidates. Now, Fiorina is now focused on telling her story. On the trail, she delivers a persona-heavy, policy-light mix of her personal rise in the business world and a theoretical take on who is supposed to serve in government.

Gone is the fiery anti-Clinton rhetoric that once defined her candidacy. Now that she stands more of a chance of facing Clinton, she’s trying to move beyond her.

“With a rise in the polls comes a rise in responsibility,” said Ron Christie, a Republican strategist who organized CPAC and counts himself as a longtime Fiorina-watcher. “It is a marked change and a departure from her original strategy to establish herself as the anti-Hillary candidate as to now trying to position herself as: ‘I can win this thing.'”

Republican donors and activists have encouraged Fiorina’s uppercuts as good for the conservative cause, eager to see a candidate so committed to damaging a likely Democratic candidate who most expect to be formidable in the general election. But few top Republican insiders have committed to Fiorina exclusively.

Despite her strong poll showings of late, many voters still don’t know much about the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive. About one-third of GOP voters said in the latest CNN/ORC poll that they had no opinion of Fiorina.

After hearing Fiorina at a Republican women’s luncheon here, some South Carolina Republicans said they wanted Fiorina to define herself before asking them to envision her in a general election debate.

“I’ve heard some of those comments too and you kind of smile about those, but that’s not really what I’m interested in,” said Robin Duffie, applauding Fiorina for speaking about policy issues. “That is more presidential.”

Fiorina’s toned down rhetoric suggests she’s aware of her new standing in the race. In a recent interview with People Magazine, Fiorina said she empathized with Clinton’s work ethic: “She’s smart, she’s hardworking, she’s giving it all she’s got.”

Not that Fiorina is abandoning Clinton entirely. At business lunches and grassroots rallies alike across South Carolina last week, Fiorina made only passing mentions of Clinton, quickly joking about her email scandal in a commonplace way that seemed even hackneyed on the Republican stump.

And Fiorina still pokes at Clinton when asked, telling reporters outside a pregnancy center recently that she is a “liar” on issues like the 2012 strike on Benghazi and the videos that have surfaced impugning Planned Parenthood. And she pushed back on the idea that she’s no longer leading the GOP attacks against the former secretary of state.

“In order to become president of the United States, I have to beat the Democrat. She happens to be the Democrat,” Fiorina told reporters when asked if she was backing away from her previous language. “She represents a set of policies that are bad for this nation.”

Her new foil? The same as many other Republicans: Donald Trump. Fiorina, who squabbled with the boisterous frontrunner in the second debate, tells crowds that the hardliner didn’t ignite the presidential discussion over border security, and that candidates shouldn’t be defined by the “size of your helicopter” or the “size of your ego.”

But for now, she sounds almost identical to every other Republican.

“We need a president in the Oval Office who actually understands how the economy works,” she told a well-dressed crowd here as forks clinked. “We have managed the decline of this great nation for quite long enough, thank you very much.”

That boilerplate is much gentler than the critiques she dished when she needed to rake Clinton over the coals to win attention. In the pre-campaign season, Fiorina relished in uncorking the most virulent broadsides of Republican contenders, making “Unlike Hillary Clinton” one of her favorite phrases as she invited Clinton’s press corps to the news conferences Fiorina staged steps away from Clinton’s events supposedly unintentionally.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights. She tweets about equal pay for women but won’t answer basic questions about her own offices’ pay standards,” Fiorina said in one blistering passage. “Hillary may like hashtags. But she doesn’t know what leadership means.”



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Obama and Putin Set for Syrian Talks at United Nations

Obama and PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin squared up for a clash Monday with his US counterpart Barack Obama at the United Nations as the Kremlin leader pushes for a new coalition against the Islamic State group.

Putin and Obama are due to make competing speeches before the UN General Assembly in New York, and will come face-to-face for their first official meeting in over two years at a time of high tension.

In the run-up to the showdown, Putin isolated by the West over the crisis in Ukraine has dramatically thrust himself back into the spotlight with a lightning push on the 4.5-year conflict in Syria.

Moscow has put Washington on the back foot by dispatching troops and aircraft to the war-torn country and pushing reluctant world leaders to admit its long-standing ally Bashar al-Assad could cling to power.

The Kremlin strongman called in an interview ahead of the UN summit for “a common platform for collective action” against Islamic State jihadists that would supersede a US-led coalition and involve Assad’s forces.

On the ground, Russia seems to have already started putting the pieces together by agreeing with Iraq, Syria and Iran that their officers will work together in Baghdad to share intelligence on IS.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that despite the sharp disagreements, he saw that Moscow and Washington shared a “desire to work together” on Syria after a meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry on Sunday.

But the US has expressed deep concern over Russia’s maneuvering in Syria and insists Obama will not let Putin off the hook over Ukraine after he shattered ties with the West by seizing the Crimea peninsula and allegedly fueling a separatist conflict.

“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” a senior State Department official said.

“We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”

Washington has demanded that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad step down, but Putin’s rival alliance with Shiite-led states will instead shore up the beleaguered government in Damascus.

Western powers say Assad’s military is responsible for the vast majority of the 240,000 deaths in the war, but with their response to IS in disarray, they have let the Syrian president’s backers present him as the only option.

“I think today everyone has accepted that President Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, another key ally of Assad, told CNN on Sunday.

While the duel between Putin and Obama looks set to hog the limelight, there are a string of other eye-catching subplots on what will be a frantic day of diplomacy in New York.

Rouhani will take to the podium for the first time since Tehran edged in from the cold with the signing of a key deal with world powers over its nuclear program in July that will see sanctions eased.

In an olive branch to his US hosts ahead of the address, Rouhani said that Iran was ready to free three Americans from its prisons in a prisoner swap for its citizens held over sanction violations.

France’s Francois Hollande will also address world leaders a day after his fighter jets carried out their first strikes against IS jihadists in Syria.

In his first UN address, China’s Xi Jinping will talk after a tour of the US that saw Washington and Beijing struggle to shake off mutual suspicions by trying to curb fears of cyber spying.

UN member states will for the first time hear Cuban President Raul Castro and Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari, who won elections in March with a vow to defeat Boko Haram Islamists.


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Merkel Calls for Security Council Reform To Reflect 21st Century Realities

Angela MerkelIt is now time that the United Nations Security Council is reformed to reflect the real distribution of power across the world in the 21st century, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday.

“We need a new method of work to solve problems,” Merkel said. “That makes reform of the Security Council necessary, reform which reflects the real power in the world better than the situation today.”

The appeal was in a summary of Merkel’s opening remarks at a meeting with her counterparts from Brazil, India and Japan provided to reporters by the German delegation.

“We have to proceed very wisely,” she added, according to the summary. “We have to find allies to reach our goal of reform.”

Merkel is in New York for a summit meeting of world leaders on global development at the U.N. General Assembly.

The Security Council, the most powerful U.N. body, has 15 members, five of them permanent. It has the ability to issue legally binding resolutions imposing sanctions or authorizing military action to enforce its decisions.

The 10 temporary members are elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, key allies from World War Two, are permanent veto-wielding council members.

Germany, Japan, India and Brazil say the world is very different from what it was in 1945 and the Security Council should reflect that. Germany and Japan, which are global financial powers and top contributors to the United Nations, argue that they deserve permanent council seats.

“The current atmosphere is that not only we four but many others don’t agree with the structure and the working method of the Security Council,” Merkel told the other leaders. “We want to take others with us to reach a modern working structure of the Security Council which suits the 21st century.”

The goal of expanding the council to include additional permanent and temporary members has long been an elusive one. Many U.N. member states routinely call for Security Council reform and have been working for decades, so far unsuccessfully, to find an acceptable formula for expanding the council.

The five permanent council members can block any such moves. Britain and France say they support council reform. The United States has also cautiously backed it. U.N. diplomats say China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are the principal opponents of the idea.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity has dropped sharply over her handling of the refugee crisis, two polls showed on Saturday, indicating a shift in the mood in Europe’s most populous country towards the record influx of new arrivals.

Berlin expects at least 800,000 economic migrants and war refugees this year alone. While some Germans warmly welcome people fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa, others are concerned about how easily they can be integrated.

In a survey published in Der Spiegel magazine and conducted by pollster TNS Forschung, Merkel’s support dropped five points to 63 percent compared to the previous ranking three months ago.

For the first time in Merkel’s third term in office, a leading member of her junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, topped the list of popular politicians. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier got 67 percent approval.

Merkel’s Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer, who has said she was wrong to let Syrian refugees stuck in Hungary come to Germany, saw his approval rating jump 6 points to 44 percent.

Another poll for ZDF television showed Merkel’s popularity fell to 1.9 from 2.4 two weeks earlier, with support being measured on a scale between -5 and 5.

While roughly three out of four Germans still say Merkel is doing a good job all in all, her refugee and asylum policies are being viewed more critically, the ZDF Politbarometer showed.

Half of those polled were content with Merkel’s refugee policy while nearly as many, 43 percent, disagreed with the chancellor’s approach, the survey said.



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State Dept. Discovers Undisclosed Benghazi Emails and Will Turn Them Over to Committee

Hillary Clinton emailThe Obama administration has discovered a chain of emails that Hillary Rodham Clinton failed to turn over when she provided what she said was the full record of work-related correspondence as secretary of state, officials said Friday, adding to the growing questions related to the Democratic presidential front-runner’s unusual usage of a private email account and server while in government.

The messages were exchanged with retired Gen. David Petraeus when he headed the military’s U.S. Central Command, responsible for running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They began before Clinton entered office and continued into her first days at the State Department. They largely pertained to personnel matters and don’t appear to deal with highly classified material, officials said, but their existence challenges Clinton’s claim that she has handed over the entirety of her work emails from the account.

Republicans have raised questions about thousands of emails that she has deleted on grounds that they were private in nature, as well as other messages that have surfaced independently of Clinton and the State Department. Speaking of her emails on CBS’ “Face the Nation” this week, Clinton said: “We provided all of them.” But the FBI and several congressional committees are investigating.

The State Department’s record of Clinton emails begins on March 18, 2009, almost two months after she entered office. Before then, Clinton has said she used an old AT&T Blackberry email account, the contents of which she no longer can access.

The Petraeus emails, first discovered by the Defense Department and then passed to the State Department’s inspector general, challenge that claim. They start on Jan. 10, 2009, with Clinton using the older email account. But by Jan. 28, a week after her swearing in she switched to using the private email address on a homebrew server that she would rely on for the rest of her tenure. There are less than 10 emails back and forth in total, officials said, and the chain ends on Feb. 1.

The officials weren’t authorized to speak on the matter and demanded anonymity. But State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that the agency received the emails in the “last several days” and that they “were not previously in the possession of the department.”

Kirby said they would be subject to a Freedom of Information Act review like the rest of Clinton’s emails. She gave the department some 30,000 emails last year that she sent or received while in office, and officials plan to finish releasing all of them by the end of January, after sensitive or classified information is censored. A quarter has been made public so far.

Additionally, Kirby said the agency will incorporate the newly discovered emails into a review of record retention practices that Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry, initiated in March. “We have also informed Congress of this matter,” he added.

These steps are unlikely to satisfy Clinton’s Republican critics.

The House Benghazi Committee plans to hold a public hearing with Clinton next month to hear specifically about what the emails might say about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya that killed four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012. And the Senate Judiciary Committee’s GOP chairman said he wants the Justice Department to tell him if a criminal investigation is underway into Clinton’s use of private email amid reports this week that the FBI recovered deleted emails from her server. The Senate Homeland Security Committee also is looking into the matter.

Clinton has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. “When I did it, it was allowed, it was above board. And now I’m being as transparent as possible, more than anybody else ever has been,” she said earlier this week.

In August, Clinton submitted a sworn statement to a U.S. District Court saying she had directed all her work emails to be provided to the State Department. “On information and belief, this has been done,” she said in a declaration submitted as part of a lawsuit with Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group.

The Clinton campaign didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment, but on Twitter, Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s press secretary, wrote Friday: “We always said the emails given to State dated back only to March 09. That was when she started using .”

Clinton has been dogged for months by questions about her email practices. She initially described her choice as a matter of convenience, but later took responsibility for making a wrong decision.

Separately Friday, State Department officials said they were providing the Benghazi-focused probe more email exchanges from senior officials pertaining to Libya. The committee broadened its scope after examining tens of thousands of documents more specifically focused on the Benghazi attack.


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Trump Still Holding Commanding Poll Lead Despite Establishment Attacks

Donald TrumpDonald Trump continues to hold a large lead despite increasing establishment and media attacks on the GOP Frontrunner in the latest CNN/WMUR poll of New Hampshire voters, but other shifts in the field are very evident since last week’s Republican debate.

Trump leads with 26% support among those who say they plan to vote in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, about the same as in a July WMUR/UNH poll in the state. Second place now goes to businesswoman Carly Fiorina with 16%, third to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with 9% and fourth to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 8%. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who held second place in the July poll, stands at 7% now, and the candidate who previously held third place, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has dropped out of the race entirely.

Trump is now seen as both the candidate most likely to win the New Hampshire primary early next year with 40% saying so, up from 25% in July, and as the one with the best chance to win next November’s general election, as 27% say he’s best positioned to carry the electoral college.

Trump’s success in New Hampshire may be dependent on his ability to turn out those who aren’t typically active in politics, however, with his support much greater among those who aren’t regular GOP primary voters. Among those who say they voted in both 2008 and 2012, Trump and Fiorina are tied at the top at 18%, with 11% behind Rubio and 9% each behind Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Eight percent say they’ll back Bush.

That lack of strength among regular primary voters is one of several negative indicators for Bush in the poll. New Hampshire has long been seen as a must-win for the former governor, who has never had much traction in more conservative-leaning early states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

The poll finds Bush’s numbers down slightly overall, from 12% support in July to 7% now, and while his debate performances haven’t shifted public opinion against him, he hasn’t made any gains either. Before the debate, 46% had a positive impression of Bush, and now, 47% do, virtually no change.

Just 17% say Bush is the candidate with the right experience to be president, only 8% see him as most likeable or most conservative, and 16% say that he has the best chance to win the general election.

Eleven percent now say they would not vote for Bush under any circumstance, the most to say so about any candidate save Trump, and only 12% now say they expect Bush to win the New Hampshire primary. In July, 26% said they expected a Bush win.

Fiorina posts the sharpest rise in the poll, following her successful performance at a CNN debate last week. In terms of overall support, she’s up 15 points since July, and the share of GOP voters who have a positive impression of her has increased by 25 points. She is now the best-liked candidate in the field.

Carson and Rubio both improved their favorability ratings following the debates as well, with Carson up 20 points and Rubio up 12. Rubio has made greater gains in overall support, however, rising 6 points since July while Carson’s support rose just 3 points over the same time period, from 5% to 8%.

Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also posted improvements in their favorability ratings since the debate, with Christie’s improvement notable as it’s the first time his favorable rating has hit 50% since July 2013. Neither have improved their standing in the race, though.

Several candidates saw the debates drive their reviews in the opposite direction, with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz losing the most ground. Negative impressions of both senators are up double digits, with Paul flipping from a net positive 44% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating in July to a net negative 31% favorable to 48% unfavorable now. His support in the race for the GOP nomination has dipped to just 3%.

The good news for many of the candidates looking for a way to gain traction: Many voters say their minds aren’t yet made up. About six in 10 New Hampshire Republicans say they’re still trying to decide whom to support, while just 13% say they are firmly decided.

The CNN/WMUR poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center by telephone from Sept. 17 through 23. The poll includes interviews with a random sample of 820 residents of New Hampshire, including 344 who say they plan to vote in the Republican presidential primary. For results among the sample of GOP primary voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.


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2016 Presidential Debate Schedule Announced

US-VOTE-2012-DEBATEPresidential candidates looking to emerge as the nominee after their party’s primary can mark a few more dates on the calendar next fall for the White House general election debates.

Three presidential and one vice presidential debate will be held for the 2016 general election next fall, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday .

Four universities were chosen to stage the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates, including veteran host Washington University in St. Louis and, marking the first such debate in Nevada, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.

The sites which also include first-time hosts Wright State University in Ohio and Virginia’s Longwood University, were among 16 schools and cities that submitted bids in April to the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates. The organization has sponsored official presidential and vice presidential debates since 1988.

“We look forward to working with these fine universities and their students and communities to bring these important civic events to the nation,” commission co-chairmen Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry said in a statement.

Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, will be the backup site. Dominican University of California will lead an initiative using technology and social media to engage young voters in a discussion of major issues in the 2016 debates, the commission said.

Next year’s first presidential debate will be held Sept. 26 at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio. Washington University will host the second debate on Oct. 9, while the University of Nevada will hold the Oct. 19 debate in Las Vegas.

Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, will host the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.

Formats for each debate have not yet been set.

Wright State President David Hopkins called the selection “very gratifying and humbling,” saying: “This is a huge win for all of us.”

Joan Neff, Longwood’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, added: “For Longwood students, the chance to experience a debate on campus will be a part of their college experience they will never forget.”

Political scientist Ken Warren noted that all four sites are in potential swing states, and that Ohio is recognized as the best bellwether state.

“I don’t think it’s coincidental,” said Warren, a professor at St. Louis University.

But the commission’s executive director, Janet Brown, insisted that wasn’t the case. She told The Associated Press that vetting focused on logistics, such as the sites’ “ability to integrate something this big and complicated into their ongoing responsibilities.” Other factors included available hotels and support services, including access to the debate sites.

Other sites that applied to host were in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, California, Kentucky, Georgia, New York, Florida and West Virginia. Brown said each site was reviewed on its own merits, but acknowledged “it’s always tempting to go to repeat sites because you know how capable they are.”

Washington University has hosted more commission-sponsored debates than any other institution. The school staged presidential debates in 1992, 2000 and 2004, and a vice presidential one in 2008. It was picked for a 1996 debate, but that event was canceled when the number of debates that year was pared to two from three.

Mark Wrighton, Washington University’s chancellor, said he believed several factors played in that school’s favor, including its central U.S. location and its debate track record. The 2016 debate will be in the field house, where seating can accommodate roughly 2,000 people.

“They quite obviously have confidence in us,” he said. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to host again.”

The debate at UNLV will mark the first time one of the commission’s presidential debates has taken place in Nevada.

UNLV’s presidential adviser for strategic initiatives, Don Snyder, said it signals an incredible turnaround for Las Vegas. He said business and political meeting organizers were unfairly urged to avoid the city during the recession.

“And I think for the presidential debates to be here, totally allows that message to be turned not just (into) a positive but an incredible positive, in terms of being able to market the destination and really market the university,” he said. “It’s the university on center stage.”


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