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CNN to return to Florida for presidential debate in 2016 — could Tampa Bay host again?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

As has been the case in the last two Republican presidential primary cycles, CNN will be bringing its resources to Florida to host a televised debate.

The cable news network announced on Wednesday that it will come to the Sunshine State to host a debate on March 10, just five days before registered Republican voters here will vote in the presidential primary.

CNN said that it announced the debate because it is unlikely the GOP will have chosen a nominee by that date “given the size and competitiveness” of the primary field. The March debate will be the third primary debate CNN will hold, with the first one in September in California and the second in December in Nevada.

“With Florida’s diverse population and 99, winner-take-all delegates we welcome CNN’s announcement to hold their debate in the Sunshine State,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “Furthermore, this ensures that all presidential campaigns will have to spend a considerable amount of time in Florida speaking to Republicans from Pensacola to Key West and everywhere in-between. Any campaign that can mount a successful statewide effort in Florida will be well positioned to run a national campaign come 2016.”

Left unclear is where the debate will be held.

The Tampa Bay area has hosted CNN presidential debates in the past two presidential cycles.

In the fall of 2007, CNN and YouTube combined to host a GOP presidential debate at the Mahaffey Center in St. Petersburg.

In September of 2011, the network teamed up with the Tea Party for a GOP presidential debate at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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