Eight Lessons for the Presidential Debates
What are the key dos and don'ts the candidates should remember when campaigning for the White House?
- By Kenneth C. Davis
- Smithsonian.com, October 03, 2012
The slightly unshaven look may work for Don Draper on “Mad Men,” but it was not a plus for Richard Nixon, as he learned in his historic confrontation with John F. Kennedy in the first presidential debate in 1960. Nixon had just come from a hospital stay. He had lost weight in the hospital and his suit looked ill fitting. He had also injured a knee and had to lean on the podium. To make matters worse, Nixon was given a heavy pancake makeup called “Lazy-Shave” to conceal his five o-clock shadow, making him appear even more pale and haggard. Chicago’s legendary Mayor, Richard Daley, reportedly said, “My God they’ve embalmed him before he even died.”
Few people recall any “sound bites” from that first night. But the junior Senator from Massachusetts looked rested and ready. Projecting youthful vigor, a tanned Kennedy, who had been in California, proved he could hold his own against the more experienced Nixon. Kennedy was America’s first “made for television” candidate and his small screen magic scored. Polls at the time showed he had turned a deficit into a lead after the first debate. The other three meetings were widely considered toss-ups.