How uneasy is the Republican establishment with the party's rowdy base? Dartmouth, host of Tuesday night's primary debate, is asking attendees to pretty please not embarrass the college with loud outbursts. The crowd at the last few debate have shouted things that made some Republicans uncomfortable, even the candidates: Rick Perry said he was taken aback when someone yelled "Let him die!" in reference to a hypothetical sick person without health care, Mitt Romney implied he wasn't totally cool with booing a gay soldier. Fusty old Dartmouth wants to make sure none of that happens tonight.
To do that, the college is more closely regulating the distribution of debate tickets than past debate hosts. Politico's Reid J. Epstein reports that there are just 860 tickets, compared to the more than 5,000 handed out for the not-so-supportive-of-the-troops debate in Orlando (festive attendees of that debate are pictured above). The college is giving 40 percent of those to students and local residents picked through a lottery -- and the invites are non-transferable. That means fewer loudmouths can sneak in, Epstein writes. Poynter's Adam Hochberg reports that pre-debate, the audience will get a little lecture reminding them to behave themselves and display only "appropriate audience behavior." And if someone does act out, a spokesman told Politico, "Much like any event like this, there is a procedure if crowd members seem to be intentionally disrupting whatever the event is." The Washington Post and Bloomberg, who are running the debate, picked the format -- candidates sitting around a table, taking questions from public television's Charlie Rose -- to foster "serious and substantive debate," USA Today reports. That should help calm any overexcited voters.
On Friday, the college newspaper tried to shame potential debate viewers into behaving. "It would be an enormous black eye for the College and a damning indictment of our maturity and political culture if Dartmouth’s debate were to be characterized by another inappropriate outburst, no matter its ideological origin," the editors wrote. "Let’s leave the stage and the spotlight to the candidates -- after all, these politicians are vying to lead our country. They should be scrutinized with thorough intensity, but not let off the hook by the distracting behavior of their audience."