Debate Prep: The View from Nashville

In case you didn’t know, there’s a presidential debate tonight at Belmont University in Nashville (that’s Tennessee, not Arkansas—maybe next time, Howard County).

And instead of offering you one more boring preview of “what McCain/Obama needs to do tonight,” we bring you an on-the-scene local report from Arkansas Project pal Rob B. in Nashville, who is more or less under house arrest as his neighborhood near Belmont University has been taken over by the national press corps, various politicos and the Secret Service.

Over to you, Rob:

Nashville’s 37212 zip code has been buzzing with activity for months since learning that the second presidential debate would be held here at Belmont University. As one might expect, both the university and the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood—comprised of 20th-century bungalows, foursquares, and tudors settled majestically on tree-lined streets—have been busy beautifying and organizing for tonight’s big event.

Oddly, having a presidential debate being held in your neighborhood is a lot like having a tornado blow through: Today has been filled with constant helicopter fly-overs and lots of public utility trucks working on, well, everything. I keep expecting to see a Red Cross lunch vehicle driving down Belmont Boulevard handing out hot meals.

In addition to all the new flowers and all the new signs and all the new banners, we’ve also seen the addition of a new FENCE, looming large at a height of at least 12 ft and encompassing the entire section of Belmont University where the actual debate will take place. The lovely fountain courtyard view fronting the Curb Event Center—which I often gaze upon while drinking coffee from across the street at the Bongo Java Coffee House—has been replaced by the large ACCESS GATE 12.

We’ve been told to expect random street closures throughout the day as the candidates make their way around the city, and I know of several folks in our neighborhood being allowed to work from home today to avoid any inconveniences.

Despite Tennessee being a solidly-Republican state, Belmont-Hillsboro’s dense population of professors and students from three major universities nearby makes it a fairly Democratic neighborhood, as evidenced by the Obama/Biden signs that have also appeared this week in nearly every yard of every house on Belmont Boulevard.

If John McCain wants to feel the love of Tennessee’s Republican voter base today, his motorcade will need to make a wide sweep through neighborhoods a bit farther south of town on it’s way to the debate auditorium.

Meanwhile, the weather turned nasty here in Nashville this morning (rainy and 68 degrees) putting a bit of a damper on the day’s activities….

And no, The Arkansas Project will not be “live-blogging” the event, so don’t be clicking over here every three minutes like you expect to find something new. But feel free to drop a comment if you have debate observations that you just have to share with the world.

Update: Zero comments. Must have been a fascinating debate.

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