When viewers tune in to Wednesday's Republican debate, hosted by CNN at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, they'll see the GOP's presidential candidates set against a colossal backdrop: a retired Air Force One that first served President Richard Nixon.
White House hopefuls are fielding questions on a stage that's wing-level with the private jet -- a modified Boeing 707 commonly called by its call sign SAM 27000 -- most used by President Reagan.
"Ronald Reagan is patron saint of the modern Republican Party," CNN's Washington bureau chief Sam Feist told WIRED. "It's not just visually interesting, but I think as we talk about where the Republican Party is going... it's also politically and editorially significant."
The Air Force One that now occupies space in Reagan's library officially retired in 2001 after a run with seven U.S. presidents. For its last journey, President George W. Bush flew the plane to Texas in 2001.
CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller was in the press pool for the jet's final flight:
The 707 has played a major role in history, flying Reagan to Berlin for his famous speech to "tear down this wall" at the Brandenburg Gate. It also flew Nixon home to California after he resigned from the presidency amid scandal in 1974.
But despite its historical significance, Knoller recalls that it wasn't a very comfortable plane.
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