Hours before the lights go on for Fox News' presidential debate in Orlando, big political stars will come out for the opening night of the Republican Party's Presidency 5 summit.
From 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 22, the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition will host a "Presidency 5 Kickoff" at the Rosen Centre Hotel.
The pre-debate rally, which is free and open to the general public, will be attended by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Dean Cannon, U.S. Rep. Allen West and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, organizers said.
Faith & Freedom's national executive director Gary Marx said a few unidentified presidential candidates are expected to make at least brief appearances before heading across International Drive to the Orange County Convention Center.
"There will be food, fellowship and special music," Marx said of the meet-and-greet at the Rosen ballroom.
"It promises to be a huge celebration of faith and freedom with the presidential candidates and a great way to get warmed up for the Fox News debate that evening."
Food and beverage tickets are available online for $8, and organizers encourage attendees to sign up at the F&F website.
The debate will be a much more closed-door affair. Open only to P5's registered guests and delegates, the debate hall will prohibit cell phones, computers or any other electronic communication devices.
"There are extreme limitations on who's in the room. Fox has an interest in maintaining its proprietary content," said Brian Hughes, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida.
With doors for the 9 p.m. debate opening at 6:30 p.m. and closing at 8:30 p.m., Hughes said there will be time for event staffers to ensure that no electronic gear is carried through security checks.
For the media, a photo pool will be tasked to take pictures at the beginning and the end of the debate. Away from the debate hall, reporters will be assigned to a separate enclosed press area, which will receive a live video feed of the proceedings.
Precise ground rules are still being developed for the venue, but Hughes indicated that signs and other campaign paraphernalia would be barred from the debate hall, which will seat the roughly 3,500 delegates and 1,500 registered guests.
The debate, which is expected to draw all the major Republican candidates, will be moderated by "Fox Special Report" anchor Bret Baier, with panelists "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, anchor of "America Live."
The debate will incorporate video and text questions submitted by the public on YouTube.com/FoxNews.
Online viewers will be able to vote on the questions they want the candidates to answer, and Fox will use the votes to help choose which questions are posed to the candidates. In addition, Fox and Google will present public data and Google search trends on air to help provide context to the questions.
For noncredentialed members of the public who want to hang around Orlando Thursday night, Faith & Freedom will keep its Rosen Centre venue open for debate viewing on a big screen, said Billy Kirkland, spokesman for the Duluth, Ga.-based coalition headed by Ralph Reed.
Following the debate, the Hillsborough County Republican Party reportedly plans to host a party down the street at the Tilted Kilt pub (for the uninitiated, think Hooters with a Celtic motif).
After the evening-long runup to the debate, and two fractious hours of political back-and-forth at the Convention Center, the I-Drive watering hole may be where the serious spinning begins.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or (772) 801-5341.