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Opinion: The magic moments that can win presidential debates

September 16, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Thomas Balcerski writes that while no magic formula exists to predict the outcome of presidential debates, one thing seems clear in retrospect: just one dramatic exchange can change public perception of the debates, and by extension, the result of the election.

(CNN)The upcoming presidential debates promise to be a watershed moment in this election.

Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been preparing to debate sitting Republican President Donald Trump.

But since presidential candidates began appearing on televised debates in 1960, incumbents who don't properly prepare have a decidedly mixed record in the November elections.

Back then, it was Walter Mondale challenging Ronald Reagan, and like Biden, Mondale needed to formulate an effective strategy to debate his charismatic opponent.

During the 1980 presidential debates, Reagan had effectively negated Carter's attack on Reagan's previous opposition to Medicare with a one-liner that resonates across American history: "There you go again. "

With the roles now reversed, Mondale came out strong in the first debate, firing against Reagan's record as president.

But in the second debate, Reagan rebounded and delivered yet another of the most memorable lines in American political history.

Building up to the debates, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scored points on President Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" line in connection to small business owners.

Romney's lackluster performance at the presidential debates pointed to the November outcome.

Presidential debates are won and lost on a mixture of preparation, personality and performance.

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