DEFINING MOMENTS IN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE HISTORY

In honor of tonight's first meeting between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. While Debates often serve to simply cement voters already held views, there have been debate moments which have shifted an election one way or the other. Let's look at some of the defining moments in debate history.
  1. 1960 Presidential Debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy
    The first televised debate changed everything. Those who listened to the candidates duke it out on the radio were certain Nixon won, but anyone watching on TV saw a profusely sweating and jittery Nixon opposite the collected and handsome JFK. The tone of the race was shifted and Kennedy went on to victory.
  2. 1976 Presidential Debate between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter
    Perhaps two of the least qualified nominees in history squared off in 1976, and Gerald Ford famously declared, in what became known as 'The Blooper Heard 'Round The World' that "There is no Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe" even though every Eastern European nation was in fact, ruled by Soviet puppet governments and permanently fixed behind The Iron Curtain. He never recovered and Jimmy Carter went on to run the least effective Presidency in modern history.
  3. 1984 Presidential Election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale
    A key component of Walter Mondale's strategy was bringing up the issue of President Reagan's age (He was 73), and it was actually working. Many voters were concerned and the moderator asked if he thought he was too old to be President. Reagan responded "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Even Mondale laughed and nobody raised the issue of his age again.
  4. 1988 Presidential Debate between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis
    On the issue of the death penalty, moderator Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis, who opposed the death penalty, if, were his wife to be raped and murdered, would he favor an irrevocable death penalty. Dukakis, already struggling because he was seen as emotionless, responded with a flat "No, I don't, Bernard" which further cemented this image in Americans minds.
  5. 1988 Vice-Presidential Debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Benson
    Vice Presidential contender Dan Quayle, a young man with great hair and a rising star in the Senate was often compared to President John F. (Jack) Kennedy. He made the mistake of bringing this up during the debate, Lloyd Benson looked at him and said "I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine... Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." the next day the headline "Deer in the headlights" flooded papers' reports on the debate.
  6. 1992 Presidential Debate between George H.W. Bush, Ross Perot, and Bill Clinton
    Sometimes all it takes to define a debate is a gesture. As was the case during the first ever "Town Hall" debate, a voter talked about how personally affected she was by the national recession, President Bush famously looked at his watch, as if bored by her problems, and then answered very politically, while Bill Clinton walked up to her, and asked for more of her story. Bush was never able to shake the image of a wealthy, detached President who couldn't sympathize with the every day American.
  7. 2000 Presidential Debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore
    Once again, all it took was a gesture. In this format, each candidate was seated and would stand up to answer questions. As Bush answered one question, Vice-President Gore stood up and walked up to him, seemingly trying to intimidate him. Bush nodded a quick "hello" and kept talking as the audience laughed at Al Gore.