Top One-Liners in Presidential Debate History: Photos
Clinton Vs. Trump
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet at Hofstra University Monday night for the first of three debates scheduled for the candidates at top of the ticket this election season. Vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence meet next week for their only joint appearance of this cycle.
Debates play an important role not only in defining a race, giving both candidates a prime-time platform to put forward their policy ideas to the largest audiences of this campaign cycle; they can also shape the outcome of a race. A single exchange or even a simple line can be enough to change a candidate's fortunes.
Ford Vs. Carter
During the Cold War, there wasn't much question where the West ended and the Iron Curtain dropped -- unless you happened to be President Gerald Ford. At a 1976 presidential debate with then-Governor Jimmy Carter, Ford proclaimed: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration." The remark stunned the moderator, Ford's opponent and the audience of the first televised debate since Kennedy met Nixon. Ford's already shaky campaign tanked, and Carter won the presidency handily.
1980 Republican Presidential Primary
Days ahead of the New Hampshire Republican primary in 1980, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan's campaign sponsored a debate in Nashua to reinvigorate his campaign. Although he was an early favorite to clinch the nomination, he had recently lost the Iowa caucuses to George H.W. Bush, who claimed to be gaining momentum. Before the debate began, there was a behind-the-scenes discussion of who would be included on stage. As this question was being discussed, the moderator, John Breen, instructed technical support support to cut off Reagan's microphone. "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green," Reagan replied, insisting that he be allowed to speak. Reagan's remark was well received by the audience and helped boost his primary campaign. The former president himself even credits the moment for playing a role in sending him to the White House.
1984 Democratic Presidential Primary
In the 1984 Democratic primary to face incumbent Ronald Reagan, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart were locked in a tight race. Mondale was seen as more of the establishment candidate, while Hart represented a fresh face for the party. Beginning in a debate held in March 1984, Mondale pressed Hart whenever the senator raised the issue of "new ideas" he had with the phrase: "Where's the beef?" The slogan had been used previously by fast-food chain Wendy's within their commercials. Mondale's call for specifics and depth to Hart's policy proposals proved successful in attracting voters to his campaign, and he eventually clinched the nomination.
Reagan Vs. Mondale
After four years in office, Reagan was up for reelection in 1984. At the time, he also happened to be the oldest president ever to serve in office. This led to speculation about his mental fitness for office. In his second debate with former Vice President Walter Mondale, Reagan remarked: "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
Quayle Vs. Bentsen
In an attempt to convince voters that he had the experience necessary to assume the office of the vice presidency, then-Senator Dan Quayle frequently framed his argument comparing himself to the late president Kennedy, claiming the two had the same number of years in Congress before seeking higher office. In a 1988 vice presidential debate with Democratic Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle again made the comparison, which Bentsen took issue with. "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," the elder senator remarked to a crowd roaring with laughter and applause. Quayle objected to the remark, calling it uncalled for in the debate.
Quayle Vs. Gore Vs. Stockdale
U.S. Navy Photo
"Who am I? Why am I here?" These are the words that Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale, independent candidate Ross Perot's running mate, opened with at a vice presidential debate in 1992. With little forewarning and no preparation ahead of the debate, Stockdale appeared on the podium appearing confused and listless when compared to the considerably most polished Republican and Democratic candidates, Vice President Quayle and then-Sen. Al Gore.
2008 Republican Presidential Primary
During the 2008 campaign, Sen. John McCain frequently mentioned that he was not responsible for a single earmark during his tenure in office. At a Republican presidential primary debate in 2007, McCain noted his opposition to a $1 million federal earmark for a museum dedicated to Woodstock. "Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time," McCain remarked. McCain managed to simultaneously remind the crowd of his service in Vietnam, his experience in the Senate and his sense of humor all in one breath.
2008 Democratic Presidential Primary
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama rode a wave of popularity to claim victory in the Iowa caucuses, an outcome that shook up the race in his favor. Ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Obama appeared to be the favorite against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. In a debate prior to the primary, the moderator asked Clinton how she could compete with Obama's likability. As Clinton started to give her answer, Obama interrupted with: "You're likeable enough, Hillary." The comment ended up playing in Clinton's favor as her supporters rallied around her, claiming both the media and her opponents were too quick to write her off. Her eventual victory in New Hampshire helped draw out what turned out to be an extended primary process.