Key debate moments in history
Under the glaring lights of the national stage, presidential and vice-presidential candidates can make or break their campaigns. Here are some of the most notable.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, left, the Republican presidential candidate, refers to the Democratic presidential candidate, Illinois senator Barack Obama as "that one" during the second presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. McCain's comment was viewed as disrespectful toward the first African-American presidential candidate nominated by a major party. Obama won the election. (Oct. 7, 2008)
Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore visibly sighed while his Republican opponent, former Texas Governor George W. Bush, speaks at the first debate of the 2000 presidential election. Although Gore fared well on substance, his performance came off as condescending. Gore went on to win a plurality of the popular vote but didn't make the cut in the electoral college. (Oct. 17, 2000)
Adm. James Stockdale, vice presidential candidate for independent Ross Perot, opens his debate remarks at Georgia Tech by asking, “Who am I? Why am I here?” The attempt at humor eroded his credibility, and the Perot-Stockdale ticket finished in last place in the three-way 1992 presidential election.
President George H.W. Bush checks his watch during a 1992 town-hall style presidential debate with independent candidate Ross Perot, top, and Democrat Bill Clinton, not shown, at the University of Richmond in Virginia. His impatience suggested that he was disconnected from audience members who expressed concern about the state of the economy. Clinton won. (Oct. 15, 1992)
During the 1988 vice presidential debate, vice presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle, right, 41, compared his time in office to that of former president John F. Kennedy, answering a question by moderator Tom Brokaw about a lack of experience in elected office. Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, left, responded, to great applause, "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." George H. W. Bush and Quale won the election, but questions about Quale's qualifications persisted. (Oct. 5, 1988)
Democratic presidential candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, right, appeared flippant at best, over-practiced at worst, when he said he would not favor the death penalty if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered in his debate with Vice President and Republican presidential candidate George Bush, left. Bush won. (Oct. 13, 1988)
Incumbent Republican president Ronald Reagan, left, 69, responds to a question of whether he, the oldest president in American history, could keep pace with incidents such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.” Reagan said, to applause and laughter. Reagan’s performance at the second presidential debate against Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Walter Mondale helped lead him to a landslide victory in the 1984 election. (Oct. 21, 1984)
Republican presidential candidate and former California governor Ronald Reagan, right, deflects a charge that he opposed Medicare from incumbent president Jimmy Carter, left, with, "There you go again." Reagan's wit broke through with American audiences in the only debate between the candidates, held a week before the 1980 election. (Oct. 28, 1980)
In the second televised debate since 1960, President Gerald Ford, right, said, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration." Ford's insistance that eastern European countries were "independent" fed into a characterization that Ford was clumsy and unintelligent. Jimmy Carter, left, the Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Georgia, won the election. (Sept. 23, 1976)
Republican presidential candidate Vice President Richard Nixon sweats during the first nationally televised U.S. presidential debate, against John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate. Kennedy, who wore makeup, outshone the sweaty and unshaven Nixon with TV audiences, but not radio listeners. Since then, successful presidential candidates had to manage their TV image. Kennedy won the 1960 election, while Nixon had to wait another eight years. (Oct. 21,1960)