From Kennedy-Nixon to Trump-Biden: 60 years of US presidential debates
The first debate between Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton drew 84 million US television viewers, a record for a debate and a rare number in an age of digital streaming.
September 28, 2020 / 10:32 PM IST
Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden face off on Tuesday in a televised presidential debate, part of a 60-year-old tradition marked by some of the most memorable moments of modern US political history:
- 1960: The first televised debate pitted Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy against Republican Vice President Richard Nixon, who was recovering from a hospital visit and had a 5 o’clock shadow, having refused makeup. The 70 million viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Kennedy won the election.
- 1976: In the first TV debate in 16 years, Democrat Jimmy Carter faced unelected incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford. In remarks seen as a major blunder, Ford said: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.” Carter won the election.
- 1980: Carter appeared in a second debate with Republican Ronald Reagan after boycotting the first for including third-party candidate John Anderson. The president accused Reagan of planning to cut Medicare healthcare funding for the elderly. Reagan, who already had complained that Carter was misrepresenting his stands on a number of issues, said: “There you go again” and chuckled, drawing audience laughter and coining a catchphrase. Reagan won the election.
- 1984: Reagan, 73, successfully defused the issue of his age when he debated Democrat Walter Mondale, 56, quipping: “I want you to know that also 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.” Reagan was re-elected.