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Chapter 9. The Art of War (Martial Art: ... > The Critical Impact of Debates

The Critical Impact of Debates

George W. Bush also succeeded in duplicating a feat that only his father, George H. Bush had accomplished…winning the election despite losing the debates. In the entire history of presidential campaigns, all the candidates (except the Bushes) who succeeded in their televised debates won their elections:

  • 1960: John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the election after he bested him in the seminal debate that set the pattern for all other debates to follow.

  • 1976: Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford after the incumbent self-destructed in the second of their three debates during the Cold War when he said, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.”

  • 1980: Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter after their single debate when he notably responded to Carter's position on Medicare by remarking, “There you go again!” Then, even more notably when, in his closing statement, Reagan looked into the camera and asked the nation, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?,” one of the most subtle and yet powerful, and subsequently often-copied political Topspins.

  • 1984: Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in a landslide after essentially breaking even in their two debates, but skewering Mondale in the second debate with his classic Topspin, “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.”

  • 1988: George H. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in the election after losing to him in their two debates.

  • 1992: Bill Clinton defeated George H. Bush and Ross Perot with his famous charisma and George H. Bush's infamous wristwatch blunder in the second of their three debates.

  • 1996: Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole with uncontested charisma not only in their two debates, but throughout the campaign.

  • 2000: George W. Bush defeated Al Gore after their three debates in which he surpassed lower expectations while Gore overshot and undershot his higher expectations.

  • 2004: Echoing his father's accomplishment 16 years earlier, George W. Bush defeated John F. Kerry in the election despite losing in all three of their debates. [9.23] [9.24]



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