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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN firstname.lastname@example.org HODGENVILLE — Political campaigns didn’t always rely on sound bites and fleeting news cycles. Back in 1858, audiences would stand in the summer heat for three hours, paying close attention to what a politician had to say. Audiences will get a taste of the next month during a day-long series of re-enactment of the debates between two U.S. Senate candidates from Illinois — Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. And if the modern media has given you a short attention span, don’t worry; it’ll last only a half hour. The National Park Service last week announced the free event, which will be at the birthplace park Aug. 21. It falls on the 150th anniversary of the first of seven Lincoln-Douglas debates. “These debates are pivotal to everything that Lincoln stood for,” said Sandy Brue, the park’s chief of interpretation and resource management. Costumed re-enactors — at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 — will hit the highlights of the speeches, which focused on slavery. Brue said she was impressed after watching a rehearsal of the program, which is presented by the Frazier International History Museum in Louisville. “The acting is superb,” she said. It will be a chance to see how the politicians spoke with contrasting styles — Lincoln being straight forward and Douglas being flamboyant. Veteran Lincoln and Douglas interpreters J. Barrett Cooper and Eric Frantz will re-enact the debates at the base of the Hodgenville shrine. The audience will sit on the granite steps leading to the building that houses the symbolic birthplace cabin. The topic of slavery occasionally pops up at the birthplace park — whether Abe believed in emancipation from the start or if his stance was merely a political tool, Brue said. It’s actually the reason he returned to politics — he adamantly opposed the spread of slavery to the western territories, she said. The debates were pivotal in bringing national attention to Lincoln, Brue said. Although he lost the senate race, he won the Rep. nomination for president two years later. The debates still are grabbing headlines. During this year’s Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton challenged Barack Obama to a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate — one without a moderator. He declined. Obama then proposed an event similar to the Lincoln-Douglas debates against John McCain after the Arizona senator had unsuccessfully asked Obama to join him in town hall meetings, according to The Wall Street Journal. McCain said the 19th century-style debate wasn’t a serious option. Also, the Ottawa (Ill.) Area Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Committee considered having the two presidential candidates participate in a Lincoln-Douglas debate in their town, the site of the Aug. 21, 1858, debate. But the town had missed the debate application deadline. Closer to home, the White Mills Civic League in 2002 sponsored a Lincoln-Douglas Day forum for local candidates. To learn more about the upcoming debate re-enactments, call the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site at (270) 358-3137. John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.