With everyone talking about tonight’s debate, we decided to find out how long these chitchats have been going on for. Surprisingly, the first televised debate wasn’t until 1960! (Shocker!) In recent years, the debates typically haven’t decided the outcome of the election. However, after the first debate, this year’s election just might be up for grabsies. Don't forget to tune in tonight at 9:00 P.M. E.S.T.
- In 1940, Republican Wendell Wilkie challenged Franklin Roosevelt to debate, but FDR declined because he didn’t want to give his opponent any more exposure than necessary.
- On Sept. 26, 1960, the first televised presidential debate took place, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the first of four debates that year.
- Kennedy was fit and tan. Nixon, who had just been in the hospital and campaigned up to a few hours before the debate, refused to wear makeup. Because of this he looked tired and weak.
- Many believe that Nixon's terrible first impression on TV cost him the election. However, it’s unlikely that the Kennedy-Nixon debates majorly affected the election results, which were decided by a razor-thin margin.
- There were no more presidential debates until 1976, when President Gerald Ford debated Jimmy Carter.
- Presidential debates have not been decisive (or very memorable) since the 1984 debate between Reagan and Walter Mondale.
- The campaigns have learned how to prep the candidates extensively and to set rules that lessen the chance of a major blunder.
- Debates are often more like side-by-side press conferences than conversations about the issues.
- That is, until the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The Republican challenger's fortunes in the polls swung significantly immediately following the debate.
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The Wall Street Journal