Presidential Debates: 8 Zingers, Gaffes and ‘Moments’
Policy + Politics

Presidential Debates: 8 Zingers, Gaffes and ‘Moments’

REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

With a global audience of about 200 million expected to watch the first debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney tonight – far higher than the 66.4 million who viewed the first televised U.S. presidential debate on September 26, 1960, between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy – voters of every age and ilk will be forming almost instantaneous impressions of the two men who are vying for America’s highest office as they square off against each other on the same stage for the first time in this high-stakes presidential election season.

The focus tonight is domestic policy – with moderator Jim Lehrer, veteran PBS newsman, poised to ask the candidates for their thoughts and plans for addressing the still-ailing economy, the rising costs of health care, and the role of government and governing in this country. Among other things, American voters will be watching to see if Governor Romney expands on his just-released plan to cap tax deductions at $17,000 and how that will affect government revenues and deficits, and how President Obama will explain four years of trillion-dollar deficits and $6 trillion in accumulated national debt during his tenure – and why he deserves another four years in the White House.

But as a just a few handfuls of individuals since 1960 know firsthand, a presidential debate – and indeed, an election – can end up turning on a quip, a gaffe, a comment, a moment, a move, or even something as simple as a sigh.