Candidates in Conflict: Persuasive Attack and Defense in the 1992 Presidential Debates

By William L. Benoit; William T. Wells | Go to book overview

1
Traditional Approaches to Presidential Debates

Three weeks from now--two--two weeks from tomorrow, America goes to the polls, and you're going to have to decide who you want to lead this country to economic recovery.--Bush, Debate 3

You have to decide whether you want to change or not.--Clinton, Debate 2

Pretty simply--who's the best qualified person up here on the stage to create jobs? Make your decision and vote on November 3.--Perot, Debate 3

Presidential debates--surrounded by hype generated by candidates and media alike--capture America's attention and are extremely important events in the campaign for the presidency. Of course, some voters may have made up their minds before the debates, but the potential influence of these events is staggering. For example, in 1992 debate 1 was watched by 81 million viewers, the second debate by 90 million, and the third debate enjoyed 99 million viewers ( "The Aftermath," 1992, p. 3336). While the candidates attack each other, and defend their own character and policy stands, throughout the campaign, the debates thrust them together in a direct and highly publicized confrontation. The drama created in these events is high, and rarely does a debate pass without some fireworks. This book examines the 1992 presidential debates as embodiments of persuasive attack and defense.

Given the amount of attention focused by the media on presiden-

-3-

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