Today, we see presidential debates as a big part of the election process. However, the debates are really an informal thing that weren’t always a part of running for president. The first major debate between political candidates was between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Both were campaigning for a Senate seat in Illinois. The next one worth mentioning was in 1948, when Republicans Thomas Dewey and Harold Stassen debated each other over the radio on the value of banning communism.
In 1960, Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon held the first major debate between presidential candidates in Chicago. Before the debate, many believed that Nixon had a clear advantage due to his proficiency in radio debates and vast political experience. But this debate was on TV, and Nixon’s appearance erased any advantage his radio experience may have given. He was sweating, looked tense, and blended in with the grayscale background. Kennedy, on the other hand, appeared young and lively, confident, and stood out from the background. After this debate, Kennedy moved ahead in the polls against Nixon, showing how important personal appearance would be in future presidential elections.
Modern Debate Importance
The debates have the most potential to convince undecided voters. In the 2016 presidential debates, Hillary Clinton often looked flustered with the insults Donald Trump threw at her, and many spectators pointed out the strange pacing Trump had been doing around Clinton in the second debate. He controlled the stage and environment with showmanship even as Clinton remained professional and serious as expected of her.
The importance of 2020’s presidential debates cannot be understated. No President has commanded as much media attention as President Trump, so the importance of a good debate means everything to Joe Biden. Biden has made a lot of mistakes in his public appearances. He often appears confused, out of touch, and even insensitive. If Biden is incapable of maintaining his composure and keeping up with President Trump’s insults, his experience and age will hurt instead of help. It will plant the idea in the minds of viewers that he’s past his prime and incapable of living up to the expectations of the President of the United States.