President Carter to the Associated Press on October 17, 1980
(from Public Papers of the President, Carter, 1980, page 2321)

Q. How important do you think the debate will be in determining how people vote in the election, and do you think that you would win it?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know about winning it. You know, I'm a careful enough observer to know that Governor Reagan is a professional in dealing with the media, and I say that not in derogation of him. I watched the debate that he had with Congressman Anderson, thought he did very well. He's good at expressing himself. He has addressed the same basic issues as a candidate for a number of years since he became interested in becoming President. He's articulate, and I don't underestimate him. But I think that the result of the debate is not who's the best debater, but which of the two candidates the American people judge can resolve the issues most effectively as a President, who can deal with a crisis best, who is best able to keep our Nation strong and at peace, who can best meet the needs of Americans as a legitimate service of the American Government, who can have a more cohesive America and better cooperation in the future with the Congress....

Those are the kinds of issues that will be discussed or debated. And I think the American people will decide whom to support for President--not who is the most eloquent or who makes the most telling debate points, but who responds to those issues most effectively in the judgment of the observer.

Q. It is a pretty high-risk operation politically, isn't it, to have a debate 5 days before the election, 5 or 6 days before, and really a one-shot occurrence, whereas in '76 the first debate didn't seem to work as much to your advantage as the latter two?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to some extent, a Presidential campaign is a high-risk operation. A lot of people enter it; few survive. And I recognized that when I began my campaign in 1975, and I recognized it this year when I was challenged by a whole group of candidates, Democrats and Republicans. But that's part of the political process. I believe that my position on the issues, my record will stand the scrutiny to be derived from the debate.

Q. Well, given the context of the whole campaign, though, do you think this debate would be decisive?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think not, except to the extent that it will define the issues more clearly which have not yet been defined adequately in the campaign so far.