The College of Charleston traditionally has been known for its liberal arts programs and historic campus, but it's now taking center-stage in national Republican political coverage.

The college developed a great reputation for hosting political candidates and events in the 2008 election, said Amanda Ruth-McSwain, a communication professor and director of the school's Bully Pulpit Series.

And its campus, with antebellum buildings and live oak trees draped in Spanish moss, make it an ideal location for national media broadcasts, Ruth-McSwain said.

The college is hosting four events in the days leading up to the South Carolina's first-in-the-south GOP primary Jan. 21, and the regional and national exposure likely will benefit the college, prompting people to check out what else the school has to offer, she said.

The college hosted a focus group Tuesday night for CNN in which members graded candidates during the New Hampshire primary. CNN will have a static camera on campus for candidate and other interviews in the week before the primary, and on Jan. 20, several CNN political shows will be broadcast from campus.

On Saturday, the Fox News television program "Huckabee" will tape interviews with the candidates for a broadcast aimed at undecided voters.

Relationships with national news media outlets, especially CNN, have been built over time, Ruth-McSwain said. "The college isn't just a beautiful backdrop," she said.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain, John Edwards and Ron Paul spoke at the college in 2007 and 2008, she said. "We were able to keep the momentum going."

Ruth-McSwain said the college's events and speaker series pull in candidates from all political parties, even though the focus right now is on Republican events.

The events provide great opportunities for students to learn about the candidates firsthand, she said. Providing such opportunities for students is part of the school's mission, she said.

Geoff Yost, a senior and the editor in chief of the student newspaper, The George Street Observer, said the upcoming events provide "a phenomenal vantage point" for students studying communication, the media and politics.

But they also provide great opportunities for all students, said Yost, a political science and communication major. "They will see things up close that students at other schools just won't be able to see."

Even students who aren't interested in politics will get a sense of how big these events are, he said. And the events might spark students' interest in the political process. "It's going to shape some conversations around campus for the next few weeks," he said.

Ruth-McSwain said many people on campus have shifted into high gear to make sure the events run smoothly. "It's going to be a very busy couple of weeks for everyone, from the physical plant, to the grounds crew to the president's office."

 

Today

Mitt Romney: Cherokee Trikes & More, Greer, 7:45 a.m.

Jon Huntsman: Honeycomb Cafe, Daniel Island , 8:30 a.m.

Rick Santorum: Magnolia Hall, Sun City, 10 a.m.; Westin Hotel, 2 Grasslawn Ave., Hilton Head, noon; Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club, Beaufort, 3 p.m.; The Daniel Island School multi-purpose room, Daniel Island, 7 p.m.

Rick Perry: Lizard's Thicket, Blythewood, 9 a.m., Duke's Barbecue, Orangeburg, noon; Murphy Law Firm, Summerville, 2 p.m.; Coffeehouse Books, Walterboro, 4 p.m.; Fat Jack's Grillin' and Chillin' Restaurant, Walterboro, 5 p.m.

Newt Gingrich: South Carolina Statehouse, Columbia, noon.

Friday

PERRY: Hilton Head Diner, Hilton Head Island, 9 a.m.; Squat 'N' Gobble, Bluffton, 12:30 p.m.; Charleston Crab House, 145 Wappoo Creek Drive, 5 p.m.

GINGRICH, HUNTSMAN, SANToRUM: All at Byrnes High School in Duncan for a 6:30 p.m. candidate forum and fundraiser for the Greenville County GOP.

Romney: Rally at University of South Carolina- Aiken, 12:25 p.m.; event for veterans on Hilton Head Island, 5:05 p.m.