President Barack Obama made history when he was re-elected to the presidency. View gallery »
Presidential debates have been a dependable source of images and sound bites that help color voters' perception of the candidates. It began with the first televised debate in 1960 between a vibrant John F. Kennedy and a flu-wracked Richard M. Nixon and has continued through to 2008, when Sen. John McCain lost his poise and called then-Sen. Barack Obama "that one." In 1976 President Gerald Ford made a policy blunder by stating there wasn't a Soviet domination of eastern Europe. Carter would later say that his debates with Ford helped him win the election. Later, when Carter faced off against California Gov. Ronald Reagan, Reagan showed himself adept at affably diffusing an attack and distilling a candidacy down to a single phrase. When Carter criticized Reagan's position on Medicaid, Reagan quipped, "There you go again." And during his closing arguments, Reagan asked voters to ask themselves: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Both lines became classics, and Reagan won by a landslide. The series of debates in 1992 featured President George H.W. Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and independent candidate Ross Perot, a member of the audience stood to ask the candidates a question about how the national debt had affected them personally. From the back of the stage, Bush glanced at his watch and then botched the question, struggling to explain himself before admitting, "I'm not sure I get it." A few minutes later, Clinton gave an impassioned response, and the debate was as good as won.