Update 5:10 pm: UH has finally confirmed that it will indeed be hosting the Republican presidential primary debate on February 25. Go here for more info.
Even though Houston is set to host a Republican presidential primary debate on February 25, it's still uncertain where that debate will actually be held and if the University of Houston will have any part in it.
Originally the debate was going to be held at UH, featuring all the qualifying candidates, and the event, sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, was slated to be the final GOP debate before the crucial "Super Tuesday" primary contests in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia on March 1. (Alaska, Minnesota and Wyoming also will award delegates on that same day.)
But then Sen. Ted Cruz was asked about his divisive approach to politicking, and instead of actually answering the question, Cruz dodged it by launching into a spectacular rant against CNBC's handling of the Republican presidential primary debate in late October. From there, he went on to decry the liberal media as a whole.
Cruz touched a nerve in the Republican Party with his claims that GOP candidates are not treated as well as Democratic candidates by the media types who moderate these debates, and the prospects of the UH-hosted NBC-moderated debate devolved from there. The RNC responded at the end of October by temporarily breaking ties with NBC, leaving the question of the scheduled Houston debate up in the air. NBC executives remained upbeat at the time, stating that they were working in "good faith to resolve this matter with the Republican Party."
Then word came down in January that those "good faith" efforts hadn't brought NBC officials back into the RNC's good graces. The RNC severed ties with NBC, changed the day of the debate from February 26 to February 25 and asked CNN to provide the moderators instead. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus made it clear in his statement about the break with NBC that the debate would take place on Thursday, February 25 "in Houston at a location to be decided."
With that statement, it was obvious that UH was no longer the definite host of the event. We've been waiting ever since to find out where the debate would be held, with no luck. The debate is now just more than two weeks away and the location is still a mystery.
When we asked UH spokeswoman P’nina Topham on Tuesday about the debate location, she stated UH has no comment at this time.
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After noticing that the only information posted on the RNC website about the Houston debate was the date and the sponsors — no location or time listed, unlike for some of the other debates — we asked the RNC media office to see if anyone there could illuminate the matter. "To be honest, I don't know any more information than is on that website," an RNC spokesman told us (update: The RNC tells us the guy was an intern).
So right now, there are still (vague) plans for a GOP debate — complete with Donald Trump, unless he has burned out or spontaneously burst into flames by then — here in Houston, but it's decidedly unclear what time the debate will happen, where it will be held and whether UH will have anything to do with it.
And to think this whole mess started because Cruz was dodging a single debate question. Go figure.