History Lesson: Past Debates

— Although they were established just 40 years ago, presidential debates are now a major feature of the election season. Take a look back at the highlights (and lowlights) of every presidential and vice-presidential debate since 1960.

1960 Election

Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy challenged Republican Vice President Richard Nixon, who was leading the polls, to a series of debates. The four, one-hour debates were the first ever presidential debates. The famed 1858 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas occurred during the Illinois senatorial campaign.

In an echo of this year’s rhetoric, in one of the debates against Kennedy, Nixon said he was “very proud that President Eisenhower restored dignity and decency and frankly good language to the conduct of the presidency of the United States.”

September 26, 1960

Who: Sen. John F. Kennedy, Democrat and Vice President Richard M. Nixon, Republican Where: Chicago, Ill. Moderator: Howard Smith as moderator, plus a panel including Sander Vanocur, Charles Warren, Stuart Novins and Bob Fleming. Format: 8-minute opening statements; 2 ½-minute responses; optional rebuttal; 3-minute closing statements. Broadcaster: Networks Rating: 77 million viewers (60 percent of all households) In the first debate, Nixon learned the hard way about the importance of how one looks on television. His haggard appearance, compared to the telegenic Kennedy’s, caused some callers — including his own mother — to inquire about his health. However, the oft-cited “fact” that those who listened to the debate over radio rated Nixon the winner, while TV viewers rated Kennedy the winner, is based on “thin” evidence that’s still debated by scholars.

October 7, 1960

Who: Kennedy and Nixon Where: Washington, D.C. Moderator: Frank McGee as moderator, plus a panel including Paul Niven, Edward Morgan, Alvin Spivak and Harold Levy. Format: No opening statements; each candidate questioned; optional rebuttal Broadcaster: Networks Rating: 61.9 million viewers

October 13, 1960

Who: Kennedy and Nixon Where: Nixon in Hollywood, Calif., and Kennedy in New York City Moderator: Bill Shadel as moderator, plus a panel including Frank McGee, Charles Van Fremd, Douglass Carter and Roscoe Drummond. Format: No opening statements; 2 ½-minute responses; 1 ½-minute rebuttals; no closing statements. Broadcaster: Networks Ratings: 63.7 million viewers

October 21, 1960

Who: Kennedy and Nixon Where: New York City Moderator: Quincy Howe as moderator, plus a panel including Frank Singiser, John Edwards, Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor. Format: 8-minute opening statements; 2 ½-minute responses; 1 ½-minute rebuttals; 3-minute closing statements. Broadcaster: Networks Ratings: 61 percent of households. This debate focused exclusively on foreign policy.

1976 Elections

(No presidential debates in 1964, 1968, or 1972)

The 1976 debates were the first televised debates to feature an incumbent president, President Ford. The debates between Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter were seen by more people than the 1960 debates. Seven in 10 adults tuned in to the first two debates of 1976 and six in 10 adults watched the third.

September 23, 1976

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...