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Evaluate the role of Televised debates in US presidential campaigns

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´╗┐Anya Roberts Evaluate the role of Televised debates in US presidential campaigns Televised presidential debates between the major party candidates have now become a traditional part of the campaign. Debates have varies in number and format since they were first used, but a pattern has no developed:three 90-minute debates between the two major parties? presidential candidates and one 90-minute debate between their vice-presidential candidates, occurring usually between late September and mid-October. The first debates were held in 1960, Nixon vs Kennedy, and set the tone for the importance of appearances in US politics. Over the years, different debate formats have evolved. Initially, the candidates standing behind podiums some distance from each other, were asked questions by one moderator. This developed into a panel of up to three members of the press who asked questions. A non-participatory audience was introduced in 1976. Then, in 1992, what has become to known as the ?Town Hall? style of debate was tried for the second of the three debates. The candidates did not stand behind podiums but were seated on bar stools, facing an audience of undecided voters who put questions directly to candidates. A moderator was there merely to keep order. This format stood for one of the three debates in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. ...read more.


Ronald Reagan also features in the second memorable debate moment. Four years on, almost to the day, President Reagan was taking part in the second and final debate of the campaign with his challenger, former Vice resident Walter Mondale. By this time Reagan was already 73, and age was becoming an issue in the campaign. Henry Trewhitt, diplomatic correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, one of the four panelists asking the questions that evening in Missouri, posed a question on Reagans? age and therefore, ability to function in such circumstances as the Cuban missile crisis. Reagan shot back a jokey response, mocking his opponent?s youth and inexperience. The audience erupted into laughter and applause. That was the end of the age issue and Reagan went on to a 49-state victory in the election. However, most debates are not ?game-changing? events. True Al Gore probably lost some support by rolling his eyes and sighing, while George W. Bush was speaking during their first televised debate in 2000. John McCain?s body language was heavily criticised in both the first 2008 debate 0 when he refused to even look at his opponent during the entire 90-minute encounter - and in the third debate when he was caught on camera ?smirking and googling his eyes whenever Mr Obama got a chance to speak.? The evidence suggests that, as with televised adverts, debates do more to confirm what the voters already feel about the candidates than to change many voters? minds. ...read more.


Whilst televised debates are crucial, they have become anti-climatic in recent years. Due to the stakes being so high during debates, candidates are well prepared and often ?play safe? when answering questions or responding to opponents. One could argue that presidential debates test characteristics that are not necessary for a president to thrive. If a candidate is not particularly good at reeling out off-the-cuff sound bytes, does that make him ineligible to govern a nation? However, equally it can be said that the image you convey in debates, is paramount to to who you portray yourself as and un turn how the electorate view you. The unexpected is part of the job as president and, particularly in times of disaster, you are the face of a nation and therefore your reaction when under pressure, communication skills and body language become consequential. It would be wrong to assume that if you win the debates, then you win the white house: issues/policies, conventions, trust, credibility and track record to name a few. What we can stress however is that in the new age of technology, debates are becoming slightly more prominent. This is largely due to the introduction of websites such as YouTube that allows people to view debates repeatedly, allowing deeper analysis and particularly pivotal if a candidate is crippled by a disastrous debate. In this sense, there is no doubt that the role of televised presidential debates has increased, yet the impact still remains slight. ...read more.

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