Vice presidential debates rarely affect outcome of race, expert says
Although politicians have been debating since the 1800s, it was only 36 years ago — in 1976 — when the first vice presidential debate was held.
At that time, Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Walter Mondale faced off.
Although the vice president is many times viewed as a background position, there have been several times in America's history – from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to the resignation of Richard Nixon — in which the second in command was thrust into the Oval Office to take over as the leader of the country.
Although the candidates for president have been meeting for three separate debates since the 1970s, the vice presidential candidates have only traditionally met once.
“The vice presidential debate covers both domestic and foreign topics. That's one way that it differs,” said West Virginia University political scientist and debate coach Neil Berch.
Although the vice presidential debates may be heavily viewed, Berch said, they rarely make a difference to the outcome of the race itself. “They generally have very little to do with the results.”
Berch said the vice presidential debate of 2008 was one of the most watched. Viewers tuned in to see Republican candidate Sarah Palin.
“Four years ago, there was a lot more interest because of Sarah Palin,” Berch said. “But overall, people watch for a variety of reasons.”
Debates in general cover an array of topics from the economy to unemployment. Although they are geared to reaching those who are undecided or independents, Berch believes the majority of viewers are decided.
“I think that most people who watch the debates are already decided, and they have a rooting interest,” Berch said. “They watch, and they root on their candidates.”
Voters are given information for months that is garnered from different sources, he said, and the live televised debates are part of the way for voters to see and hear the candidates in a different form.
Impressive amount of voters do actually tune in to at least one of the four debates, he said. “Ask them if they watch, and about 60 percent will tell you that they do.”
Voters must keep in mind that just because a candidate comes out on top of a debate, it does not guarantee a win at the polls, Berch cautioned.
“One of my favorite moments and best line from a vice presidential debate was back in 1988 when Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy, and Lloyd Bentsen, who was the running mate with Michael Dukakis, commented, ‘Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.' Bentsen may have won that debate, but Quayle went to the White House.”
Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Trigger clause’ in ordinance unnecessary, says Connellsville’s health board
- Community Field Day fundraiser planned at East Park in Connellsville
- Robber threatens employee at Subway in Uniontown Mall
- Final ‘Wednesdays at West Overton’ to feature Bullskin woman
- Dawson native Leonard finishes season with Braves’ AAA affiliate
- Connellsville tech center names homecoming queen
- Connellsville area’s weather into December could be mixed bag
- Connellsville’s Mozart Music Club to celebrate 95th anniversary