Three debates down and two weeks before the election: are you more confused than ever? For an historical view of presidential debates have a look at these video clips from the library database, Films on Demand.
The 1960 debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon is often cited as a turning point in that year’s election. For the first time the debate was televised, a huge advantage for the tanned, telegenic Kennedy. Even in this clip, Nixon, recovering from the flu, appears pale and awkward—not a quality voters look for in a president.
The 1992 debate which took place at University of Richmond features the infamous gaffe by then President George H. W. Bush looking at his watch, presumably more concerned with the time than domestic issues. Conversely, Bill Clinton projected a warm, sympathetic manner which won over voters.
A question for students and scholars, then, is do debates matter and if so how much? Are you influenced by what you see in the debates?
For more historical perspective check out these books:
- Inside the presidential debates : their improbable past and promising future / Newton N. Minow and Craig L. LaMay
- The American campaign : U.S. presidential campaigns and the national vote / James E. Campbell