Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Great Debates
It is interesting that most persons refer to the Lincoln-Douglas debates when discussing the history of presidential debates, but the first presidential debate wasn't until 1960 when Nixon and Kennedy squared off in four televised "Great Debates." These debates were difficult on Nixon, as he didn't prove to be very telegenic. The debates were reprised in 1976, and the leading presidential candidates have participated in a series of debates each election year since. The first vice-presidential debate was between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. Perhaps the most entertaining was in 1992 when it was a three-way debate between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.
Many analysts say the debates make little difference, but Reagan certainly appeared to gain an advantage over Carter with his constant refrain, "There you go again," and pounding Carter on the so-called "misery index." Dukakis certainly didn't do himself any favors when responding to Bernie Shaw's question on the death penalty. McCain disappointed many viewers by not being able to hold his own against Obama on foreign policy, which was regarded to be his strong suit. But, probably the most memorable gaffe came in the 1988 vice-presidential debate, but this had no bearing on the election.
Not surprisingly, both candidates have been busy downplaying the upcoming debate, but there is no question that there is much riding on the line, as Romney needs a good performance to turn his campaign around, which was badly bruised in September. The first debate will be on domestic policy, with Romney no doubt trying to invoke the ghost of Reagan.