The first televised presidential debate was between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. (Source: The National Park Service)
(RNN) – The first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is Wednesday. Political junkies and the public will not only watch to learn more about where they stand on issues, but to see if the candidates pull out any memorable one-liners or gaffes.
For all the talk leading to the debates, do they actually change the minds of voters? A recent Gallup poll reveals they only made a substantial difference twice - in 1960 and 2000.
In chronological order, here are some of the memorable moments from presidential and vice presidential debates.
1960: Richard Nixon vs. John Kennedy
In the first televised presidential debate, Nixon refused makeup and was seen as nervous and tense compared to Kennedy, who did use makeup. However, many who listened on the radio 50 years ago believed Nixon won the debate, ushering in the requirement that candidates be telegenic.
The next televised debate wasn't until 16 years later. Lyndon B. Johnson wouldn't participate and Nixon refused, having been burned the first time around.
1976: Gerald Ford vs. Jimmy Carter
President Ford, who was losing to Carter in the polls, didn't help his case when he said during the debate, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." The statement was so surprising it flustered the moderator, Max Frankel, who asked Ford to clarify his comments.
Ford responded by listing the Eastern Bloc countries - which were under Soviet control – that were not "dominated by the Soviet Union."
1980: Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter
"There you go again" became the first memorable zinger in a presidential debate. Reagan responded with it when Carter attacked him on Medicare. The second memorable zinger in a presidential candidate came during Reagan's closing argument, when he asked the country, "Are you better off?"
Both phrases have be reused by both parties – most recently by President Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in September.
1984: Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale
Getting out in front of a story usually serves the candidate well, and 73-year-old Reagan was facing pressure that he was too old. The Great Communicator deflated the argument with humor by saying, "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," he said.
1988: George Bush vs. Michael Dukakis
The Democratic nominee came across as cold and unfeeling when asked if he would favor the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife. His response was reasonable, but voters wanted to see more emotion.
1988: Dan Quayle vs. Lloyd Bensten
While Reagan was the first to be recognized for his zingers, Bensten gave the first verbal smackdown during the vice presidential debate. Quayle said he had as much experience in governing as John F. Kennedy did when he ran for president.
Bensten tersely responded with a line that has been parodied and adopted ever since: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
1992: George H.W. Bush vs. Bill Clinton vs. H. Ross Perot
As a third party candidate, Perot made the election interesting with his charts and sound bites. But the memorable moment from this presidential debate was not spoken.
During the town hall debate, when an audience member asked how the national debt affected each candidate, Bush took a long look at his watch. Bush asked for a clarification, fumbled the answer and was somewhat hostile toward the questioner, making him seem out of touch.
1992: Dan Quayle vs. Al Gore vs. James Stockdale
H. Ross Perot chose Vice Adm. James Stockdale as his running mate, who was unknown to the public. In an attempt to introduce himself, Stockdale said in his opening remarks, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
He went on to point out that he wasn't a politician nor a Washington insider – something candidates are quick to tout these days – but the comment made Stockdale seem confused. Asking the moderator to repeat a question because he wasn't wearing a hearing aid didn't help. The electorate now expected a polished, telegenic candidate.
2000: George W. Bush vs. Al Gore
Gore, who was vice president at the time, was fighting an image of being stiff and condescending – and his first debate performance reinforced that perception. Gore repeated sighed loudly into the microphone during Bush's responses – not helping his case in the historically tight race that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
2008: John McCain vs. Barack Obama
McCain, who was trailing in the polls, came out swinging against Obama to gain some ground. He referred to Obama as "that one" during a response on Obama's energy.
It was unclear why McCain used the term – was he trying to be condescending? The failed zinger didn't help his case in the polls.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
KTRE Online Poll
What is the most memorable debate moment?
Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:
Richard Nixon's refusal to wear makeup
Gerald Ford: "There is no Soviet dominance over Eastern Europe."
Ronald Reagan: "There you go again."
Michael Dukakis' lack of emotion.
Lloyd Bensten telling Dan Quayle he was "no Jack Kennedy."
George H.W. Bush checking his watch.
James Stockdale: "Who am I? Why am here?"
Al Gore's repeated sighs during George W. Bush's responses.