US presidential debates over the decades

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 04, 2012 07:23 hrs

Washington: US presidential debates are a time-honoured tradition, with the first nationally-televised presidential debate being held in 1960.

US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney held their first debate Wednesday night in Denver, Colorado. The debate was hosted by veteran PBS journalist Jim Lehrer.

Xinhua said that debates were time-honoured tradition in US elections.

While the first nationally-televised presidential debate was not held until 1960, several other debates are considered predecessors to the presidential debates, including the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the middle of 19th century.

The first nationally-televised general election presidential debate was held on Sep 26, 1960, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

But no general election debates were held for the elections of 1964, 1968 and 1972.

It wasn't until 1976 that presidential debates became a formality of the presidential election.

Some of the presidential debates can feature the candidates standing behind their podiums, or at conference tables with the moderator on the other side.

Depending on the agreed format, either the moderator or an audience member can be the one to ask questions.

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters (LWV) organised presidential debates in 1976, 1980 and 1984.

Since 1988, the two major political parties assumed control of organising presidential debates through the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

Some criticised the exclusion of third party and independent candidates from the debates, but it is hard for any third party or independent candidate to pass the threshold of 15 percent of approval rating to get a ticket to the debate.

The only exception was in 1992, when a third-party candidate, billionaire Ross Perot joined a debate with George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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