"Reagan, Anderson, Empty Chair"

Washington Post, Sept. 11, 1980; A1 By T. R. Reid  

In early September, the League of Women Voters had determined that Independent candidate John Anderson enjoyed enough public support to justify his inclusion in the three scheduled debates of 1980, the first of which was set to take place on September 21. Worried that Anderson's candidacy threatened to his campaign more than Reagan's, President Carter insisted on first debating Reagan one-on-one before any three-way debate. The LWV indicated that should Carter not attend the first debate, as he ultimately did not, an empty chair on the debate platform would signify his absence. In the end, however, the LWV decided against the empty chair, which by September 21 had become the topic of jokes and political cartoons.  

 

"Debates: What Nixon Learned"

Washington Post, Sept. 14, 1980 By John Sears  

Twenty years after the historic encounter between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon, "Great Debate" still garnered interest. Sears speculated on how Richard Nixon, made more politically astute by the lessons of the first "Great Debate," would have handled Independent candidate John Anderson's inclusion in the 1980 debates.    

 

"Anderson topped Reagan in the Debate,
Poll Finds"

Sept. 24, 1980; A3; Campaign Notes  

According to a poll conducted the day after their debate, 36 percent of viewers who watched the debate believed Independent candidate John Anderson performed better than Republican candidate Ronald Reagan. 30 percent believed Reagan had done better. President Carter had boycotted the debate in protest of Anderson's inclusion as a third party candidate. Despite Anderson's apparent debate victory, however, his public support steadily declined through the fall campaign. The League of Women Voters decided not to include him in the debate that President Carter finally agreed to on October 28. 1980; A3  

 

"Debate to Allow Candidates to Challenge Each Other"

Oct. 25, 1980; A6; Campaign Notes  

According to the debate format decided upon by the League of Women Voters and representatives of President Carter and Ronald Reagan, the candidates were permitted to challenge one another directly through a response-rebuttal-surrebuttal sequence. The 1960 and 1976 debates had not officially permitted such exchanges, allowing the candidates only time for response and rebuttal. It is unclear which candidate benefited from the format; however, with the Reagan campaign apparently in possession of Carter's debate briefing book, the advantage seems to have been Reagan's.

 

"10 Guidelines for Scoring the Debate"

Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1980; by Jack Hilton  

As the article states, "So how can we tell who wins Tuesday's televised debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan? Try the following guidelines, which aren't so much guidelines for debating as they are for television, which is more important to the participants." The guidelines are: 1) Be yourself; 2) Be liked; 3) Be prepared; 4) Be Enthusiastic; 5) Be specific; 6) Be correct; 7) Be anecdotal; 8) Be a listener; 9) Build bridges; 10) Be cool.

 

"Hey, Getcha Score Card Here!: Now YOU TOO Can Judge the Debate with These 10 E-Z Point Categories"

Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1980; by Tony Kornheiser  

On the flip side of 10 guidelines, Kornheiser offered a satirical piece with suggestions on how to determine who the winner of the Carter-Reagan debate. His suggested categories: 1) Tan; 2) Rip and Rep; 3) Misty Eyes; 4) Methods of Non-Response-actually a Non-Category.

 

"War, Peace Dominate Debate"

Oct. 29, 1980; A1; By Lou Cannon & Edward Walsh  

Incumbent president Jimmy Carter and Republican candidate Ronald Reagan debated only once, only a week before the election. As evidenced by the exchanges between the candidates, President Carter's strategy was to characterize Reagan as a "hawk," and one who could not be trusted to pursue nuclear arms reduction. Former Governor Reagan, on the other hand, sought to emphasize the Carter administration's failed economic policies and the country's high inflation and unemployment. Although there was no clear winner, Carter was unable to convince voters he deserved to be re-elected.

 

"Justice Dept. Asks FBI to Join Probe of Briefing Papers"

Washington Post, July 1, 1983; A1; By Martin Schram  

The briefing papers in question refer to President Jimmy Carters notes for his debate with Ronald Reagan in 1980. How these came to be in the possession of Reagan's campaign was a question that the FBI and the Justice Dept. were trying to find out. About a week before their debate, Carter relied on a 200 page briefing book to help him prepare. The book contained information on Carter's debate strategy, and would have proved quite useful to Reagan for the debate. David Stockman and David Gergen apparently relied on the papers in helping Reagan to prepare.

 

"Choreographers Had Plan for Every Step in 1980 Debate"

Washington Post, July 2, 1983; A2: Howard Kurtz  

Kurtz outlines the content of the papers Ronald Reagan's campaign had before his debate with Jimmy Carter in 1980. Kurtz wrote: "Each candidate was armed with a wealth of negative news clippings, selected statistics and pointed quotations calculated to embarrass the opponent. The documents also show that the Reagan camp, which had obtained much of Carter's debate briefing materials, successfully anticipated and parried many of the Democratic president's planned lines of attack." The article provides numerous examples of some of the information find in the campaign files. It seems to affirm the idea that debates are little more than tightly scripted political advertisements, with whole lines scripted, quotations from the opponent. The article also demonstrates how much preparation is under taken, although certainly memorized lines take precedence over in-depth analysis.