By FOX Carolina Staff
GREENVILLE, S.C.FOX News and the South Carolina Republican Party will host the first in the South presidential debate in Greenville on Thursday night.
On Wednesday, FOX Carolina got a behind-the-scenes look at the setup for the debate. The cameras were in place, the logo was shining on the floor and five podiums were lined up at the Peace Center in downtown.
Some FOX crew members flew into Greenville this week after working on the royal wedding in London. They said the key to a successful debate is in the details.
"We've designed a set that we can use multiple places to save money," said senior director of productions for FOX News Jeff Hark. "We have a crew of about 100 people here, doing this debate, which includes the debate program, but we're also doing other programs here."
None of the top five GOP contenders in recent polls will be part of the debate.
Yet, FOX News reporter and debate panelist Shannon Bream said a candidate's campaign can take off if they impress South Carolina and the nation on national television.
"I think this is a good chance for people who may not have gotten as much attention, may not have had as much time to speak to voters, to really get that one-on-one face time in a debate like this," Bream said. "It's their opportunity to shine. They've got to make the most of it."
Debate participants include Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santoum.
The 90-minute debate starts at 9 p.m. Thursday. It will be broadcast live on the FOX News Channel.
When it came to choosing Greenville for the debate location, Mayor Knox White said FOX executives searched the state for the right venue. He said FOX's news director called the downtown area and the Peace Center startling and dazzling.
FOX news political analyst Juan Williams, who will be one of the panelists Thursday night, called the Greenville debate the home-field advantage for South Carolinians.
"People pay more attention (when the debate is nearby)," Williams said. "You have a rooting interest and you want to see if they're speaking to your concerns."
Williams said issues relating to South Carolinians will be discussed at the debate.
South Carolina GOP Executive Director Karen Floyd said she sees the state as a representation of the country, but uniquely important to political decision making.
"In all of the interviews, people say South Carolina is the most prolific and exciting place," Floyd said, "We take our politics really seriously."
Floyd said the debate is a sold-out event, but eyes around the country will be on Greenville on Thursday night.