Obama-Romney TV Debates Set for October
Obama-Romney TV Debates Set for October
11 September 2012
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney will face off in three 90-minute debates this October, giving still-undecided voters their best chance to compare the two side by side, and allowing all viewers to watch the candidates as they respond to tough questions and react to unscripted moments on live television.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which sponsors and produces the contests, has announced the first debate will occur October 3 in Denver and will focus on U.S. domestic issues; the second will be held October 16 in Hampstead, New York, and will have a town hall format, where undecided voters will ask the questions. The final debate will be in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22 and will focus on U.S. foreign policy.
The CPD has also planned an October 11 vice presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, between Vice President Biden and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.
All four candidates will be taking time away from the campaign trail to devote to preparation, including practice debates with stand-ins who will try to copy the styles and likely arguments of their opponents.
Do debates decide the outcomes of elections? In some cases, yes. The first televised debate between major party nominees Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960 allowed voters to see, hear and compare the two candidates in a way that never before had been possible. Television viewers could evaluate their style and form as well as the substance of their remarks. Interestingly, most of the radio audience believed Nixon had won the debate, but the larger television audience thought Kennedy won, a response that likely contributed to his narrow victory.
The Atlantic magazine's James Fallows argued in an August 23 article that “the easiest way to judge ‘victory’ in many debates is to watch with the sound turned off, so you can assess the candidates’ ease, tenseness, humor, and other traits signaled by their body language.”
In early U.S. political races, debates did not play a role because candidates were expected to modestly refrain from appealing to voters or appearing too eager for the job. However, in 1858, Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the U.S. Senate, challenged rival Stephen Douglas to a series of public discussions over the issue of slavery, which became known as “the Lincoln-Douglas debates.”
The emergence of radio and later television helped lead to three primary election debates in 1948, 1952 and 1956. But, until 1960, there never had been a debate for the general election, let alone a televised contest. After the Kennedy-Nixon debate, the format was discontinued until 1976, largely because of the reluctance of incumbents and front-runners to give their opponents any potential advantage.
Past debates are remembered more for clever one-liners and gaffes than for what was actually discussed, and some moments have made their way into American political legend.
- In 1976, during the Cold War, President Gerald Ford surprised many by insisting in a debate that ,“There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”
- In 1980, then-Governor Ronald Reagan dismissed President Jimmy Carter’s verbal attacks with the now-famous line “There you go again.”
- The 73-year-old President Reagan humorously disarmed charges in 1984 that he was too old for the job compared to 56-year-old challenger Walter Mondale by pledging not to make age a campaign issue and “exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.”
- 1988 Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen struck back against Republican candidate Dan Quayle’s assertion that he was as experienced as John F. Kennedy was when he became president by saying, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”
- In the closely contested 2000 election, Democrat Al Gore is believed to have lost voter support during debates by audibly sighing during Republican George W. Bush’s remarks, and by walking up to Bush and appearing to try to intimidate him on stage.
As the 2012 debates approach, the closer President Obama and former Governor Romney are in the public opinion polls, the more attention voters and the news media will be paying to the contests, and the pressure on each candidate will be high. It is not only one of their best and last chances to win voters, but it is also a huge opportunity to erode support as the result of a mistake or a wrongly worded response.
In 2004, President George W. Bush remarked to PBS’ Jim Lehrer, who will be moderating the October 3 debate, that "the interesting thing about presidential debates is that I don't think you ever win them, but you darn sure can lose them."
Overseas Voting for American Citizens
U.S. Elections 2012
New absentee voting laws are in effect for the 2012 elections. You will no longer automatically receive ballots based on a previous absentee ballot request.
All U.S. citizens outside the United States who want to vote by absentee ballot in the 2012 primary and general elections must complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) every year if they wish to vote from abroad. It's easy to do - just go to www.FVAP.gov, the official U.S. government website for overseas absentee voting information, to start the process.
More details and how to contact the Voting Officer at the U.S. Embassy London are on our Voting page.