Cover Story: GOP Debate at Wofford College

SPARTANBURG, SC (WBTV) - The eyes of the world on our region - preparing for the Republican presidential candidates to go toe to toe in Spartanburg.

The GOP presidential campaigns are in South Carolina for the first nationally televised debate on broadcast TV this presidential primary season.

A lot of people around the world will be watching this debate considering the focus will be on what the candidates would do as commander-in-chief.

It's hardly been talked about so far this campaign season so what happens Saturday night could be historic.

The debate is happening in a state that could well decide who the GOP presidential nominee is.

Most of us know Wofford College in Spartanburg as the place where the Panthers prepare for the season.

While there were college players on the field on Friday, the real action this weekend will be inside Wofford's basketball gym:  an elaborate stage - that took a week to set up complete with lights, expensive cameras and eight podiums for the eight GOP presidential candidates who will be participating in the debate.

Laura Corbin is the Wofford College spokeswoman.

"For a campus.. the kind of exposure that we're getting nationally is just tremendous.. you can't pay for that kind of exposure.. that's what I love," she said.

200 members of the media some from around the world will be filing stories from Wofford.

CBS News, co-hosting the debate with the National Journal, broadcast its Evening News program from the college Friday night.  And Scott Pelley and the National Journal's Major Garrett will be moderating the debate Saturday.

They were running through their questions with stand-ins on Friday.

The candidates themselves haven't dealt much with national security and foreign policy issues.  The economy is the thing on everyone's mind now.

But anchor Scott Pelley told us you can't underestimate how the world can change at moment's notice.

"Presidents always come in to office to change the world and the world always ends up changing them. You think about Lincoln being in office 40 days before the Civil War. You think about President Bush bring in office less than a year when 9/11 happened. These things come out of nowhere.. so it's important to have a good understanding about these candidates think about national security issues and what they would do if there was a threat to American shores," says Pelley.

The debate at Wofford comes ten weeks and one day before South Carolinians cast votes in the first presidential primary in the South.  It will be on January 21st.

South Carolina, a pro-military state that's picked the eventual Republican nominee for president for more than 30 years.

Dr. William DeMars heads Wofford's Department of Government.

"The fact it's at Wofford College. a liberal arts college dedicated to the pursuit of truth is something important... we hope that that's the spirit will influence the debate," says DeMars.

Wofford found out three weeks ago they'd be hosting the debate and they've done a lot of rearranging to accommodate the debate.

Sporting venues have had to be moved, practices rescheduled and Saturday's football game with Georgia Southern will start a half-hour earlier so the crowds can thin out before the debate crowd arrives.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.