The Past and Future of Presidential Debates

By Austin Ranney | Go to book overview

Discussion

GEOFFREY SMITH, London Times: Did Carter concentrate, in the first debate at least, on pumping out factual information to the viewers as a deliberate tactic to try to overcome what you have termed the "weirdo factor," or was this a style that he and you believed to be most appropriate to this kind of debate?

LESHER: As to the first part of the question, it was a deliberate tactic of Carter's, and that is why, instead of having coaching or dry runs, he locked himself up with his books. He did want to spew out lots of facts as an indication of what a good grip he had on difficult questions, especially economic questions. Whether it is part of his normal style -- well, you see him as much as I do now.

SMITH: I did not mean to ask whether it is necessarily part of his normal style, but whether it is his belief and your belief that such a style is especially appropriate to televised debates?

LESHER: Let me put it this way: It is my associates' belief that Mr. Carter is one of the smartest presidents in terms of his knowledge and general intelligence that we have had in many years. They say that he understands issues, that he has a good grasp of them, that he does not: merely spit back summaries at press conferences. Therefore, I would. think that, in following his normal style of discussing things rather broadly and with significant information -- or facts, if you will -- Carter would think that is the way to show himself to best advantage.

NELSON W. POLSBY, University of California, Berkeley: My perception of the first debate was that, in fact, Carter was not following his normal style; he was simply spitting out large numbers of irrelevant facts, and it was quite uncharacteristic of the way he normally deals with issues, at least by hindsight. This leads me to question the extent to which he was explicitly following the Kennedy model. Everybody who replays the 1960 debates notices that Kennedy crammed himself

-147-

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The Past and Future of Presidential Debates
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - Presidential Candidate "Debates": What Can We Learn from 1960 1
  • Discussion 51
  • 2 - Historical Evolution of Section 315 56
  • Discussion 70
  • 3 - Presidential Debates: an Empirical Assessment 75
  • Discussion 102
  • 4 - The 1976 Presidential Debates: a Republican Perspective 107
  • Discussion 131
  • 5 - Did the Debates Help Jimmy Carter? 137
  • Discussion 147
  • 6 - The Case for Permanent Presidential Debates 155
  • Discussion 169
  • 7 - Debatable Thoughts on Presidential Debates 175
  • Discussion 187
  • 8 - Presidential Debates: an Overview 191
  • Discussion 206
  • Bibliography 215
  • Contributors 225
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