Great debate gaffes in history

August 6, 2015

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1w3FgB0Ohc[/youtube]

Before the 1976 presidential campaign even began, President Gerald R. Ford was weighed down by his decision to pardon his predecessor, President Richard M. Nixon, for crimes connected to Watergate. Ford was also locked in a tough race with Georgia’s Democratic former governor, Jimmy Carter, because the Southerner, with his born-again purity, was far more in sync with a public recovering from its “long national nightmare.” But Ford’s major debate gaffe about the Soviet Union’s influence on Poland was another blow he never fully recovered from.

***
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9_pRmRlzY4[/youtube]
Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis was heralded by the Democratic Party as the ultimate technocrat when he emerged the winner at the 1988 national convention. But his bloodless debate performance — he remained unruffled even as a moderator described the governor’s wife being raped and killed — helped wipe out the governor’s standing with the public.

***

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-7gpgXNWYI[/youtube]

In the 1988 vice presidential debate Senator Lloyd Bentson (D-Texas), emerged as the definition of wily and tactical Southern politician. Senator Dan Quayle seemed destined to be the good-looking deer in Bentson’s headlights. The seasoned politico rolls right over him.

***
The 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot was full of classic moments, but perhaps nothing topped the debate among the vice presidential candidates. Who can forget the remarkable debate performance of Perot’s running mate: Admiral James Stockdale

Certainly Saturday Night Live took note:

***

Meanwhile, when the public is in tune with the candidate, even a shaky debate performance doesn’t matter. In the second presidential debate of 1984, President Ronald Reagan’s summary wondered off to a long drive he had taken down California’s Pacific Coast Highway (roughly at 1:22 mark). He never really got back on track. But the voters didn’t care. For them it was “Morning in America.”

 

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/