12 key moments in past U.S. election debates

Presidential debate watchers expect zingers, insults and carefully scripted sound bites, as each politician attempts to gain favour in the run-up to the presidential election on Nov. 6. In this video reel, we take a look at 12 key highlights from the past.

Nixon , Kennedy, Obama and McCain duke it out on stage

Past Presidential debates

9 years ago
A look back at some key moments from past presidential debates. 13:55

President Barack Obama squares off against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in second of three debates on Oct. 16. The high-stakes political sparring match will take place in a town-hall format.  

Experts will be watching to see if the showdown can reproduce the fireworks and zingers of U.S. debates past, as seen in the video reel above. The highlights include:

  • A telegenic John F. Kennedy sparring with a sweaty Richard Nixon in 1960. Shortly after winning the presidency, Kennedy said, "It was TV more than anything that turned the tide." Many politicians were afraid of suffering Nixon’s fate and refused to participate before the cameras. The televised debates wouldn’t reappear in the U.S. until 1976 when Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter took on President Gerald Ford .
  • Republican vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle in 1988 saying he had as much experience in Congress as Jack Kennedy when he ran for the presidency. To cheers and applause, Democratic nominee Lloyd Bentsen replied, "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
  • Ross Perot, George Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992 pledging to quit the mudslinging in favour of debating the issues.
  • George W. Bush telling voters in 2000 that he trusts them with their money, while his opponent Al Gore wants to "grow the government."

Presidential debates live

CBC News Network and will have live coverage of the second U.S. presidential candidates debate on Tuesday, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Join our live chat at with Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, national affairs editor Chris Hall, Washington correspondent Keith Boag and reporter Mark Gollom, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET.