One-Sided Presidential Debates

I’m listening to the newest episode of Ricochet’s flagship podcast (which makes Law Talk an aegis cruiser, I suppose), and the question arose, but wasn’t answered: was there ever a more one-sided debate in presidential history?

I don’t think Nixon-JFK was as bad (at least in terms of substance — image is another matter). But two debates that were equally, if not more, one-sided, at least to me:

McCain-Obama 2008

Dole-Clinton 1996

Am I wrong? Other candidates?

  1. Cato Rand

    I think you misunderstand if you think Obama’s loss was mostly substance.  To an awful of of voters (including me by the end, though I have to admit to having had a couple celebratory cocktails by then), the actual words coming out of the two candidates sounded like the “wa wa wa” teacher on the Peanuts cartoons.

    I think Obama lost mostly on style — looking down (weak), not looking at Romney (arrogant and disrespectful/dismissive), wordy (too lawyerly, and you know how you can tell when a lawyer’s lying don’t you?) and worst of all — BORED (aren’t we, and the job of POTUS, important enough to at least command your attention?).

  2. David Williamson

    Ryan-Daffy Duck, 2012. Oh, wait, that’s a VP debate, and hasn’t happened yet.

  3. Arahant

    Nixon-Kennedy was a set-up visually, but those who heard it on radio mostly thought Nixon won.

  4. Lucy Pevensie

    Well, according to the CNN poll, this was the most one-sided–by a margin–since they started polling in 1984. So that means that two of your candidates are out, at least according to the viewing public. And since Nixon apparently won on the radio and only lost on TV, that would make his much less one-sided.

  5. Mr. Dart

    I listened to the flagship podcast today too and pondered that same question.  The only one I came up with was a Dole-Clinton debate from ’96 that was very lopsided. 

    I couldn’t bring myself to watch the McCain-Obama debates in 2008 although I thoroughly enjoyed the Palin-Biden one.

    In the years since Reagan the Presidential debate I recall most vividly was the Bush-Clinton-Perot town hall format one.  That one wasn’t so much “lopsided” as it was dispiriting.

  6. Frozen Chosen

    How can you remember these things more than a month after they happen?

  7. DutchTex

    The Nixon/Kennedy radio/tv thing is good narrative, but not good history.

  8. Stephen Bishop

    What things?

    Frozen Chosen: How can you remember these things more than a month after they happen? · 10 hours ago

  9. rosegarden sj dad

    I realize I’m leaning into the wind on this issue, but I must suggest that while I thought Romney definitely won the debate, he won it more by being Very Good than Obama being Bad. Obama was OK, it’s not like he froze up or said something stupid. While I do find it impossible to listen to him anymore, what he said was no worse or better than what he’s been saying forever. I thought Reagan’s bloopers in his Mondale debate were much worse, because it made you think: he’s senile. Obama just seemed kind of off, not impaired, imho.

  10. LCLee

    It seems to me that the media has never been so vocal in reporting a win for the republican candidate. To me – that is the surprise. Even as obvious as the win was to me, I still expected to see the media cheerleading for Obama. The media looked shell shocked. 

  11. Barbara Kidder

    The  2008 McCain/Obama debate was painful!

    Our memory of how poorly Senator McCain represented the Constitutional government/free market  position in that debate, is much of the reason for Republicans’  lukewarm acceptance of Romney as their candidate in 2012.

    His moderate positions and ‘Mr. Nice-Guy’ manner, were all too reminiscent of McCain in that debate,  against a fresh and agile Obama.

    To quote Michael Barone, from an earlier Uncommon Knowledge interview: “Romney’s can of dog food has the right label… but the dogs turn up their nose.”

    Hopefully, Romney has been able to dispel those concerns (at least until after November 6), and that the dire situation that our country is in will strengthen his resolve  to ‘fight for the right’!

  12. Peter Fumo

    I have watched every debate since Carter-Ford. I thought the first Reagan-Mondale debate and the first Bush-Kerry debate quite frankly, at least on points, were more one-sided. What struck me on this one was simply how nervous and uncomfortable Obama was, almost making you forget that he was President and Mitt the challanger. Obama’s smile was particularly a nervous smile. His greeting to his wife at the beginning fell flat. Romney in constrast was presidential,commanding,comfortable. I think Romney is an extremley impressive person, and it showed. I think Obama is an extemely over-rated person, and it too showed.

  13. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Obama’s was the worst performance that I have ever seen, and Romney was very, very good.

  14. Arahant
    DutchTex: The Nixon/Kennedy radio/tv thing is good narrative, but not good history. · 4 hours ago

    Interesting.  Thank you.

  15. Rick Wilson
    C

    I think the example of Dole-Clinton was the closest in terms of the differential in the performances of the two men.  I don’t think we can really count Kennedy-Nixon for all the usually cited reasons.

  16. DocJay

    McCain was so bad because he was just not organized with his thoughts.  Obama passed McCain as the worst ever if only because every pundit thought he was all that and a bag of chips without ever seeing him workaim an even setting.

  17. HoosierDaddy

    There’s no question that Obama’s performance was the all-time lowest rated by his own people, the lapdog media. In those terms, a truly historic failure.

    As to another question of history, I turned to my wife after seeing the media consensus and said, “This has been the greatest day of Mitt Romney’s life.”

    He looks fabulous standing on that stage with his wife and  sons who look just like him. When Ann told CNN that he always jots down the word “Dad” before beginning a debate, I didn’t think of George at all. I thought it was to remind himself of his role as father and returning America to a course of adult responsibility.

  18. Larry3435

    I guess I’m alone on this, but I thought Bush 43′s first debate performance against Kerry was simply awful.  In the second debate, he was asked what advice Laura gave him after the first debate, and he said “Stand up straight.”  So I guess that’s it.  If you want to be President, stand up straight.

  19. Allan Trojan

    I was around for the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 and I had intelligent, sensible friends who thought Nixon won.

    Myself, I was neutral, though I never fell for that phony Kennedy glamour, in fact, it repulsed me.

  20. Mister D

    I have watched or listened to every presidential debate since ’88. I have beheld many in which one candidate won by being on his game, and simply beat out a fair performance by his opponent. I have also witnessed those in which one candidate undid himself, and handed the victory away. I do not believe I have ever seen this 1-2 combination of a peerless performance by the winner, and utter weakness by the loser.

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