In case you didn’t know. Donald McClarey walks us through a couple notable cases where debates helped tip the scale. In both cases, the examples are from Jimmy Carter. There were other notable debates in recent years. The second 84 debate where Reagan turned on the charm and addressed the age issue. Not that the age issue went away. Contrary to popular belief, it didn’t. I was blessed with the best teacher I ever had during the 84 campaign. He was our 12th grade Govt. Teacher, Mr. Quinn. I learned more about from him than any other teacher. Ever. And he was wonderful at walking us through the election season. Even though I missed voting by a month, I was paying attention to politics by that time. As much as Reagan’s little quip has become the stuff of debate legend, it didn’t stop the criticisms or questions about his age and health. It was just that things were doing better than ever, he hadn’t nuked the world, and Mondale was an extraordinarily weak candidate.
The 88 VP debate also leaps to mind. At the time, Bentsen’s smack down of Quayle took our breath away. You couldn’t help but smile, since it seemed to affirm Quayle’s reputation as a lightweight who was outside the circle of power players. In later years, Bentsen’s dig, while still legendary, has been looked at by some as the rude and arrogant insult that it was. Being a VP debate, it obviously didn’t make a difference with the outcome.Other debates can be noteworthy, but with moments that cancel out each other. The 2000 presidential debate, that led to SNL’s fabled skit and launched Will Ferrell’s career, was one of those cases. The inarticulate stumbling of George Bush only played into the stereotype of Conservatives being stupid, but was balanced by Gore’s robotic, dry and heartless delivery that would chill any warm blooded creature.
Sometimes the small moments, like GHW Bush looking at his watch, or the notable moments, like Nixon sweating, can nudge things in a certain way. Reagan’s famous question that Mr. McClarey references is an example of a debate done right for the right reasons. No snobbish insults, petty bickering, or trivial flubs. It was what a debate is about: Here is why I should be president, not him, succinct and to the point.
Tomorrow night, Clinton will win. The media will declare her the victor. Only once in all my years have I watched the media overwhelming name a Republican the winner of a debate. That was the first 2012 debate where Romney mopped the floor with a deer-in-the-headlights Obama. What could they say? It was more than obvious. What little credibility the media still possessed would have evaporated if they tried to insist Obama won. But in just about every other case that I can remember, the press leaned toward the Democrat. I’m sure tomorrow will be no exception.