Presidential debates are a time honored tradition and mark the home stretch of the campaign for President. Traditionally there are three debates (one for V.P candidates) and each one has a certain focus; foreign policy, social issues etc. Tonight in primetime, the candidates for President will take to the stage in the first debate. Both sides are working hard at preparing while hoping to come out on top. Each candidate will no doubt be trying to not come off sounding pompous or condescending but instead the clear confident winner. It’s a fine line.
It seems as though the debates do not really change the game; with two notable exceptions.
ABC News: "Historically, debates haven't moved public opinion enough to matter for the election," said Ralph Begleiter, director of the center for Political Communication at the University of Delaware.
The hard data supports his point. According to a Gallup study, only two debates between 1960 and 2004 moved the meter and quantifiably changed the direction of the polls.
Those debates occurred in 1960, with the historic first televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The candidates were virtually tied going into the debate, but the youthful Kennedy dazzled in the new medium, where Nixon appeared to sweat nervously under the hot lights. Kennedy came of the debates with a four-point lead.
In 2000, Al Gore led George W. Bush in the polls by eight points, but lost ground by the third debate. Gore came off in those debates as condescending, remembered mostly for sighing when Bush said things with which he disagreed.”
I have always loved watching the debates. Growing up, I remember watching them with my dad. I learned about politics watching Reagan debate Walter Mondale and Clinton debate Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush.
The debates fascinate me. It’s important for me to actually hear a candidate speak on their positions. I think a lot can be gained from hearing tone of voice and seeing the facial expressions of a candidate. It’s easy to write a paper or pre-record an ad where you get several takes to get it right, but it’s another ballgame when you are on the spot. Debates allow us to see the candidates as human. So I will be watching. What about you?
Will you watch the debates? What are some of the topics you hope they address?
You can find the debate schedule here.