Patrick Caddell and Gerald RafshoonIn commenting on the close election of 1976, Jimmy Carter said flatly that "if it hadn't been for the debates, I would have lost. They established me as competent on foreign and domestic affairs and gave the viewers reason to think that Jimmy Carter has something to offer." Carter's assessment raises a series of questions:
|Did he "win" the debates in the sense that he was superior to President Ford?|
|Did the debates change the minds of voters; that is, did they shift votes from Ford to Carter?|
|If Carter would have lost the election except for the debates, what may we infer about their value for the future?|
|If they helped Carter, did they hurt Ford?|
|Did they provide a service to the electorate of sufficient magnitude to institutionalize debates?|
|1.||The debates helped both candidates by diminishing, if not eradicating, the general publics negative perceptions of each.|
|2.||Carter was the greater beneficiary because his likely presidential performance was less "known."|
|3.||"Winning" or "losing" the debates had an insignificant impact on the electorate for both candidates.|
|4.||The outcome of the debates changed few votes; in the Carter campaign, the debates were planned to shore up perceived weaknesses among likely supporters rather than to expand support.|
|5.||Although Carter undoubtedly is right that he would have lost the election without the essential forum of the debates, the debates|
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Publication information: Book title: The Past and Future of Presidential Debates. Contributors: Austin Ranney - Editor. Publisher: American Enterprise Institute. Place of publication: Washington, DC. Publication year: 1979. Page number: 137.
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