FIRST DEBATE
September 21, 1980; Baltimore, Maryland
Moderator: Bill Moyers, PBS

John Anderson's remarks to Carter's absence
John Anderson, a Republican Congressman from Illinois, chose to run as an Independent after Ronald Reagan received the Republican nomination. Anderson's poll ratings at the time the first presidential debate of 1980 was organized qualified him, according to the League of Women Voters, to participate. President Carter, however, refused to participate in a three-candidate debate. In his closing remarks, Anderson addressed Carter's absence and refuted the charge that he was a "spoiler" by drawing a distinction between himself and Ronald Reagan.


Ronald Reagan's closing arguments
Republican candidate Ronald Reagan made the most of President Carter's absence from the first presidential debate of 1980. His closing arguments had a powerful effect, much as they would a month later in his debate with President Carter. (According to the League of Women Voters, Anderson's subsequent decline in the poll ratings justified his exclusion from the second presidential debate.)

SECOND DEBATE
October 29, 1980; Cleveland, Ohio
Moderator: Howard K. Smith, ABC News

Jimmy Carter addresses the Iranian Hostage Crisis
One of the defining crises of President Carter's presidency was the Iranian hostage crisis, and on the date of his only debate with Ronald Reagan, the hostages had been held for almost a year. President Carter addressed the issue in response to a question put to him by Barbara Walters.

Jimmy Carter, nuclear arms and Amy's consultation
Nuclear arms treaties and proliferation were major issues in the debate between President Carter and Ronald Reagan. Just as John F. Kennedy had raised questions about "trigger-happy" Republicans in his campaign against Richard Nixon, Carter's campaign sought to portray Reagan as a reckless "hawk." It came as no surprise, then, when the candidates repeatedly clashed over the nuclear weapons issue in their debate. But it was Carter's reference to his consultation with daughter Amy that became the focus of post-debate analysis and late-night television jokes.

Reagan's closing remarks
In his closing remarks, Ronald Reagan asked a simple yet devastating question that would resonate with voters in 1980 and beyond: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" For many voters, the answer was clearly "No."