Romney Wins First Debate. Should Obama Worry?

The votes are in and 67% agree Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate.

Should president Obama be worried? Absolutely not. Since 1960, the candidates have engaged in televised debates in ten election years. One year was a toss-up but in 5 of the remaining 9 years, the person who “won” the first debate actually lost the presidential election.

Sources: 1960 | 1976 | 1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1996 | 2000 | 2004 | 2008 | 2012

The first televised presidential debate was in 1960, when a fit and tan John F. Kennedy faced Richard Nixon, who was fighting a flu, bravely refused any makeup and ended up sweating profusely under the hot TV studio lights. Kennedy impressed TV audiences and critics agreed Nixon “lost” that debate.

In 1964, 1968 and 1972 the incumbent presidents declined invitations to debate the challenger, possibly spooked by the Kennedy-Nixon example. The televised debates resumed in 1976, with Gerald Ford besting his challenger Jimmy Carter. But Carter would go on to win the presidential election.

Since then, the debates have had little predictive power. In fact, there seems to be a reverse effect where the winner of the first debate goes on to lose the presidential election. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2012.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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