Presidential Debates Rarely Matter, Except If Someone Royally Screws Up

The three presidential and one vice presidential debates have been set. You can find the details on them at In that piece Andrew Malcolm notes:

The political reality though is that debates, like college mid-terms, seem important at the time but end up mattering less at the end. Arguably, in hindsight only two presidential debates over their 52 years have been decisive:

The first in 1960 when Richard Nixon’s make-up and shaver failed him on black-and-white TV while the country discovered a young, well-spoken senator in John F. Kennedy.

The other occurred in the final days of the 1980 campaign when two former governors faced off. President Jimmy Carter actually lead Ronald Reagan going into that set-to, as incumbents tend to do, even those burdened by a terrible economy.

There have been some memorable moments, but Malcolm is right. The debates aren’t going to decide this election; not with two polished candidates contending. And if you think the vice presidential debates will matter remember that the K.O scored by Lloyd Benson over Dan Quayle with the “you’re no John F. Kennedy” line didn’t help his ticket win…

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  • herddog505

    AP – “A poised, polished, confident President Obama soundly trounced a flailing Romney in last night’s presidential debate, leading to speculation that the badly-shaken Romney camp, which has been trailing in polls since he became the Republican nominee, will bow out of any further meetings.

    “‘He got shellacked,’ said veteran newsman Chris Matthews. ‘Honestly, I felt sorry for the guy.’

    “Longtime presidential scholar and Washington veteran George Stephanopolous agree. ‘The president wiped the floor with him.’

    “The Romney camp claims media bias in reports of the president’s stunning victory, drawing sneers from both sides of the aisle.

    “‘The politics of hate is all that Mitt Romney has,’ said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz. ‘When he had to do more than spew racist GOP talking points, he fell flat on his face.’

    “‘The GOP establishment has clearly backed a losing horse,’ agreed former GOP insider David Frum. ‘This is shaping up to be an electoral disaster for the Republicans, and I doubt that they can do anything about it. They’ve been drawn so far to the right that that can’t change course.'”

    See how easy that is?

    • jim_m

      Now we not only have saved ourselves the necessity of having the debate, but you have kindly provided the copy for every MSM outlet in the nation.

      Well Done!

      • herddog505

        Thanks. I often wonder why MiniTru has to have so many people working for them; writing the drivel they produce isn’t very hard.

      • herddog505

        Thanks. I often wonder why MiniTru has to have so many people working for them; writing the drivel they produce isn’t very hard.

  • Hank_M

    I dunno. A few thoughts….

    If all Obama does in 3 debates is talk about what he inherited, complain the rich are not paying their fair share, and lie as usual, I don’t think he’s going to do well.

    And as we’ve learned, when he goes off the teleprompter, he’s prone to making
    some really stupid remarks.

    He’s had almost 4 years of cherry picked questions from the unbelievably few news conferences he’s held. He now has a record to defend. He may well face some tough questions. This is going to be new territory for him and he’s not going to be able to bullshit his way through it. Promises won’t cut it anymore.

    Romney is going to have to counter the usual crap his supporters like to use and that Obama will use for bragging rights, i.e. saved the auto industry, saved the economy, reformed the banking industry, blah blah blah.

    My only real concern is how biased the questions and moderation will be.

  • Hank_M

    One last comment on Romney…

    Anyone else see his response to Brian Williams last night when Williams asked him if he would pick an “incredibly boring white guy” for Vice President?

    Romney’s reply: “You told me you were not available”

    • herddog505

      Yeah, who knew Mittens had it in him? Williams asked a boorish, insulting question and got his a** handed to him. Good for Mitt.

      • Commander_Chico

        That is funny as hell.

  • Wild_Willie

    Obama’s luster has worn off. Only the kool aid drinkers are left. Romney hasn’t even begun to use his war chest but Obama is going through his like a drunken sailor. All people outside of political wonks are on vacations with their kids, etc. The end of August is when kick off happens. Until then, Obama is spending his money just to stay evern with Romney. Love it. ww

    • UOG

      WW, having in my youth spent may a fine Navy day (and night) as a drunken sailor, I have to say I resemble your comment. Hey, who’s buy the next round?

  • I’m so damn tired of political theatrics.

    That said – seeing Obama try to debate without a teleprompter will be hilarious. I think Romney will have Obama reduced to a stuttering, sweating failure in short order.

    • Brucehenry

      You mean like McCain did?

      Hey, anyone remember early in Obama’s presidency when he met with the GOP House caucus in a conference room and rhetorically kicked their asses? On camera? Was that with or without a teleprompter?

      • Remind me – was that where Obama, when questioned, said “I won” as a means of settling the argument?

        McCain was playing by gentlemen’s rules in his campaign – while Obama was going by Chicago rules. I don’t think Romney will make the same mistake.

  • EricSteel

    Arguably, in hindsight only two presidential debates over their 52 years have been decisive
    I disagree. I can think of two more off the bat. First is Bush v. Dukakis when Dukakis screwed up the question about the death penalty. Second, the Bush/Clinton/Perot debate when Bush looked at his watch.

    • Hank_M

      Good memory. And I agree.

      There was also Bush/Gore, with Al looking like he was about to jump W at one point. W’s response was priceless.

  • EricSteel

    Debates allow people to judge the candidates side by side, but they also can reinforce or refute narratives about the candidates in the minds of the voters.
    For example, Carter pushed the narrative that Reagan was a dangerous, scary, humorless warmongering wingnut. In the debates Reagan blew that narrative out of the water.
    When Bush 41 looked at his watch, he reinforced the narrative that he was an out of touch patrician.
    When Dukakis stumbled over his answer about the death penalty he reinforced the narrative that he was a cold, unemotional technocrat.

  • retired.military

    I still remember Al Gore made up to try to look like Ronald Reagan Then he tried to intimidate Bush by getting in Bush’s space. What a tool.

  • Commander_Chico

    Wow, looks like Romney stepped it in all on his own in London. Now he’s got the (Conservative) Prime Minister Cameron and the (Conservative) Mayor of London Boris Johnson ripping him. They are calling it #Romneyshambles on Twitter.