Ever since the great Republican National Committee/CNBC bust-up at the beginning of the year — the break was caused by Sen. Ted Cruz's dodging a question and blaming CNBC, as we've previously reported — we've been left in suspense, waiting to find out if the University of Houston would actually get to host the final Republican presidential primary debate before Super Tuesday.
When the RNC announced that it was parting ways with NBC, 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." And we've been waiting ever since to find out what location the RNC would deem appropriate. The RNC made it clear that it had no intention of telling, as we noted on Wednesday, and UH officials declined to issue a comment either way.
Until now, at least.
On Wednesday afternoon, CNN finally, officially confirmed that UH is hosting the debate, scheduled for Thursday, February 25, according to a UH release.
The debate will be held in the Moores Opera House inside of the Moores School of Music.
One source had told us that the music building and the surrounding grounds have been subjected to painting, cleaning, landscaping and a general spiffing up by university workers over the past few days (see the photos below). Yet even earlier this afternoon, UH spokeswoman P'nina Topham maintained that the work — everything from grass being freshly cut to cleaning crews cleaning just about anything, basically any action that could somehow be interpreted as pre-debate preparation — didn't necessarily mean UH was hosting the debate. "Keep in mind, I'm not saying that they're painting for no reason, but I'm not saying they're painting for that reason either. Sometimes paint is just paint, and sometimes it's not," she said.
This is one of the cases where it wasn't just paint.
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The building will be pretty much taken over by all things GOP debate-oriented for most of the week leading up to the big show itself, a UH music student told us. Classes held in the building will be canceled for most of that week, the source told us, and the missed classes will most likely have to be made up during dead week.
In addition to the prime-time nationwide broadcast by CNN and Telemundo, extensive pre- and post-debate coverage will originate from the UH campus Cullen Lawn. A Google media filing center and post-debate spin room will be set up in the Yeoman Field House.
The University of Houston does not have debate tickets available. The Republican National Committee is handling all tickets.
So that's that. After weeks of delay, we finally know that the original plan to have UH host the debates is going to play out as originally envisioned. Minus the involvement of NBC, that is.