The Norman Transcript

Breaking News

Nation/World

October 3, 2012

10 memorable moments in presidential debates

President Barack Obama will debate Mitt Romney for the first time Wednesday night in arguably the most anticipated event of the campaign season.

Who doesn't like a good debate? Debates hold the potential to etch lasting impressions in voters' minds about presidential candidates' personalities and policy positions. And part of the appeal of debates stems from memories of past showdowns that have left enduring imprints on our collective political consciousness. (Though, as history shows, there are few examples of debates dramatically shifting the trajectory of a campaign.)

Below is our list of the top 10 moments from past presidential debates, in reverse chronological order. The rundown includes moments that shook up campaigns, others that revealed something telling about a candidate's temperament, and the zingers and one-liners against which all campaign quips are compared:

2008: John McCain calls Barack Obama "that one"

McCain's altogether head-scratching use of the term "that one" when discussing an energy bill Obama supported was not the kind of debate attention the Republican needed to generate as he sought to make up ground in the polls. It set off a round of post-debate debating in the media (was it a stroke of condescension, contempt, or was it just plain confusing?), which was not the kind of news the underdog McCain was hoping to generate.

2000: Al Gore's sighs

Debates are as much about conveying personality as politics. Gore's sighs at a debate with George W. Bush in 2000 came across as condescending, a perception that didn't help his cause in a historically close race.

1992: George H.W. Bush checks his watch

The incumbent conspicuously checked his watch just as an audience member began a question about how the national debt has affected him personally. What's more, it took the president a couple more minutes to come to terms with the question. The exchange fueled the contrast with Bill Clinton, who excelled at appearing to empathize more than the Republican.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Documents detail another delayed GM recall for failed power steering

    DETROIT — General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    JACKSON, Wyo. — A slow-motion disaster continued unfolding in the Wyoming resort town of Jackson on Saturday, as a creeping landslide that split a hillside home threatened to swallow up more houses and businesses. The ground beneath the ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

    Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers. Samuel Rogers is a 20-year-old ...

    April 20, 2014

  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs....

    April 20, 2014

  • Hostage French journalists in Syria freed

    PARIS — Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media....

    April 20, 2014

  • 13th body found in Everest avalanche

    KATMANDU, Nepal — Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides Another three guides remained ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Autopsy to ID dead boy; body cast off side of road

    WORCESTER, Mass. — All Massachusetts authorities could say for sure is that they found the lifeless body of a small boy, apparently cast off the side of a highway....

    April 20, 2014

  • Study: Half of jailed youths have injury

    NEW YORK — About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City’s jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that’s the latest in a growing body of ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Senate to debate rideshare regulations

    PHOENIX — Among the major issues left to cover at the Arizona Legislature before the session ends is how to regulate the increasingly popular ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft. The contentious debate has pitted traditional taxi ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Quake shakes Mexican capital

    ACAPULCO, Mexico — A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties....

    April 19, 2014