1. News & Issues
Send to a Friend via Email

Video:Why Are Presidential Debates Important?

with Nathan Buck

Presidential debates are important in determining what each candidate's policies are. Watch this About.com video to learn more about the importance of presidential debates.See Transcript

  • All Videos
  • All News & Issues Videos
  • US Politics Videos

Transcript:Why Are Presidential Debates Important?

Hi, I'm Nathan Buck for About.com and today I am going to talk about why presidential debates are important.

Presidential Debate Between Obama and Romney

Though critics of the format argue that televised presidential debates are a triumph of style over substance, their importance to the election cycle can not be overstated. This was evident most recently in the 2012 election cycle. Coming into the first 2012 debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, Romney was polling well behind the President nationally and in most of the crucial swing states. Many pundits had written off Romney's chances of winning. However, Romney's spirited performance, in which he succeeded in appearing more passionate than the President, led to him universally being declared the winner of the debate and reignited his chances a month before the election. This despite the declarations from many observors that Romney had changed his positions on many issues to appeal to more of the electorate.

Presidential Debate Between Kennedy and Nixon

In 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy and then Vice President Richard M. Nixon appeared in the first televised presidential debates and a new election year tradition was born.The four 1960 televised debates were crucial to Kennedy's victory in the general election. In the first 1960 debate, Kennedy appeared rested, clean-shaven and presidential whereas Nixon looked tired, had stubble on his chin and had recently returned from the hospital and was not fully recovered. The fact that Kennedy made a stronger visual impression than Nixon has led to the received wisdom that Televised Presidential Debates are really more about making a good impression than winning arguments.

Presidential Debate Between Carter and Ford

After the 1960 debates, there were no presidential debates held until 1976 between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Even though Ford was leading Carter in the polls, his verbal blunder in the second debate in which he said that "There is no Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe and there never wil be under a Ford Administration" gave the impression that he was out-of-touch with reality on a crucial aspect of foreign policy. This led to a poll bump and Carter's subsequent victory.

Presidential Debate Between Carter and Reagan

However, it was Jimmy Carter who in turn would fall victim in a televised presidential debate with Ronald Reagan in 1980. Reagan, who had been a film star before becoming a politician was naturally gifted and appealing in front of the camera. Reagan's mastery of appearing presidential, being personable and consistently able to deliver devastating one-liners has long been considered a text book of presidential debating technique.

Although it is arguable whether or not televised debates offer a fair impression of the qualifications of presidential candidates, there is no question that they are a powerful and direct way for candidates to appeal to the public. And that's some information on why presidential debates are important. To learn more, please visit About.com.

About videos are made available on an "as is" basis, subject to the User Agreement.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.