Since then, most candidates for president have recognized the importance of debates and of performing well in them—and the need to look good while doing them. This year is no exception. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will participate in three debates, scheduled for September 29, October 15, and October 22. Their respective running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris of California, will face off on October 7.
As you assign the activity to your students, you may wish to convey to them that debates can have a major impact on the outcome of a presidential election. Experts say President Gerald Ford never recovered when he stated during his second debate against Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia on October 6, 1976, that “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” In the presidential debate held on October 28, 1980, former Governor Ronald Reagan of California outshined then-president Carter when he told the audience, "Ask yourself: are you better off than you were four years ago?” A week later, Reagan defeated Carter at the polls. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush was criticized for seeming bored and looking at his watch during an October 15 debate with Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas and businessman Ross Perot. Some observers have said that Bush's seeming disinterest helped Clinton win the election.
For younger students, consider having them watch one of the debates and summarize the key positions and messages that each nominee presented. They could also note key words or phrases that the nominees repeated numerous times. Ask the students why they think the nominees kept repeating themselves.
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