The race for the Republican nomination for president is coming to the University of Michigan today.

At 4 p.m., GOP candidates will debate in Dearborn at a forum sponsored in part by the University’s Dearborn campus.

Republican candidate Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, plans to come to Ann Arbor to deliver a speech from the steps of the Graduate Library at 7:30 p.m.

Rob Johnson, chair of the University’s chapter of Students for Ron Paul for President, said his group only had a week to prepare for the visit, but they’ve been promoting the event since then.

Paul, a libertarian Republican, is a longshot to win the Republican nomination. But he has generated intense interest and support from across the political spectrum. He’s lured supporters from the left with strong opposition to the war in Iraq and an activist foreign policy. He’s lured supporters from the right with strident opposition to tax hikes, abortion rights and many federal government programs.

Abdullateef Muhiuddin, the University of Michigan at Dearborn student government president, said his group is helping to organize a live broadcast of pre- and post-debate activity on the Dearborn campus on radio station WWJ throughout the day.

The Dearborn student government also invited candidates to come talk to students before the debate.

Terry Gallagher, a spokesman for the University’s Dearborn campus, said the University is working with the Michigan Republican Party and the city of Dearborn to work out the logistics of transportation, facilities and broadcasting.

Michigan will likely see more attention from the Republican presidential candidates over the next few months. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill last month to hold a state primary on Jan. 15, one of the earliest dates in the country.

Democrats, meanwhile, have vowed to stay away from Michigan. The Democratic National Committee has threatened to strip the state of its convention delegates because it broke party rules by scheduling its primary before Feb. 5.

Six of the Republican candidates spoke at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference last month. The last time the Democrats descended on Michigan en masse was in July, when nine candidates spoke at a forum in Detroit sponsored by the NAACP.

Chris Irvine, chair of the University’s chapter of the College Republicans, said he thinks the eventual GOP nominee will have a better chance of winning Michigan in the general election because of the attention from the candidates.

“The Republicans do seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on Michigan,” he said. “The economy is definitely a factor a lot of people in Michigan are going to be curious about.”

But Sam Harper, the chair of the University’s chapter of the College Democrats, said he isn’t concerned about the debate drawing focus from the Democratic candidates.

He said the College Democrats have been working to promote the Democratic Party by hosting a student debate last week. He also mentioned that the College Democrats are in the process of planning an event – which would take place Nov. 5 on the Diag – to kick off the year-long countdown until the presidential election.

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