Tonight, millions of Americans and people from other nations will be tuning into as Obama and Romney go head to head in the first of three presidential debates.
In case you haven’t noticed each has poured praise on the others debating skills in a the usual effort to lower the public’s expectations for his own performance.
Debates are now critical to presidential campaigns, especially this one, but only entered the campaign 50 years ago. Prior to the age of the debates, interaction between the candidates and the campaigns was completely different.
In fact, according to The The Commission on Presidential Debates, “the debates of 1858 set the stage for Abraham Lincoln’s later run for the presidency; 1948 and 1956 were the only public debates among presidential candidates prior to 1960; there were no presidential debates between 1960 and 1976.”
According to Discovery, we are reminded that the debates between Lincoln and Douglass, were a discussion between two parties vying for control of the Illinois legislature. At that time presidential campaigns were run behind closed doors, with party elites selecting their nominees and surrogates making the case for a candidate. It’s still evident that this occurs today with the party elites especially in the primaries.
In the scheme of things the debate that springs to mind with most people is the 1960 debate between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon who met for not only the first ever presidential debate, but the first televised debate in U.S. electoral history. More than 66 million people tuned in to the exchange between the candidates, which focused on domestic issues.
Debates became a fixture of the U.S. presidential campaigns after 1976. In 1988 the Commission on Presidential Debates was established to organize and sponsor the debates where both sides agree on the number, as well as, formatting, moderators and venues.
There is more reason to tune in tonight since we can’t rely on the media to give an unbiased opinion. Listen well to both candidates and form your own objective opinion. It will be interesting to hear how the moderator frames the questions for each of the candidates.