2012 Presidential Debates: The candidates then and now

With only hours between now and the debates, the candidates are getting ready to rumble as they have done before...

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2012 – The debates are countable hours away and one can only surmise that Obama and Romney are both deep into last minute practice sessions, though reports are that Obama took a break today for lunch at Chipotle. 

President Obama has likened the preparation to “homework,” that it is a “drag.”

Romney’s comment is that everyone wants to know who is going to win, but that this is not about winning, but about America.

Obama’s campaign is saying Romney is preparing “zingers” and sound bytes and both are supposedly creating those “attack lines.” 

Romney is practicing with Senator Rob Portman, while Obama’s practice partner is Senator John Kerry.

Wednesday’s debate will be divided into six time segments of 15 minutes each. Segments will focus on the economy, on health care, and on how the candidates will work with what is a very divisive government, where the aisle has been replaced by a wall.

The audience is expected to be over 50 million viewers, and more than 3,000 journalists are credentialed for this first debate. Some seven hundred of those journalists are from “other” countries, showing the global interest in America‘s 57th presidential election.

There are many comparisons to notable past debates, such as Kennedy vs. Nixon, or the very notable debate between Senators Lloyd Bentsen and  Dan Quayle which included this famous zinger: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Captured in video and print, variations on “You sir are no Jack Kennedy” are now an oft [mis] quoted part of the political lexicon.

Even so, along with President George H.W. Bush, Dan Quayle served in the 41st Presidential-Vice Presidential team.

Bush lost the White House to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Did the Oval Office slip from his grip when, during a debate, Bush checked his watch while standing before voters in the first town hall-style presidential debate (1992).

Remembering that debate, and comparing George H.W. Bush to Mitt Romney, it is important that Romney watch his body language, which we all remember was the downfall (along with too much perspiration and a bad makeup job) of Richard Nixon in the Kennedy vs. Nixon debates.

Simple gestures “became freighted with deeper meaning,” says Ellen Fitzpatrick, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. (U.S. News Report 2008)

It is notable that Al Gore’s performance in President debates (2001) against George W. Bush had him sighing audibly during his opponent’s comments, a debate that was moderated by tomorrow night’s moderator, Jim Lehrer. Tomorrow Lehrer will be keeping the candidates on track and the proceedings, I am sure, lively.

Watch the debates from the University of Denver and join in the Communities chat, Wednesday night, right here and starting at 8:45 pm. 

You will be glad that you did. 


Daniel de Gracia

Daniel de Gracia



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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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