Carter to the Associated Press on October 17, 1980
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?
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
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?
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
Q. Well, given
the context of the whole campaign, though, do you think this debate
would be decisive?
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