8 memorable moments from presidential debates

President Obama and Gov. Romney square off tonight in their first debate. Does it matter? We’ll see—but debate performance made a difference during these contests.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve read numerous analyses that suggest there is scant evidence to conclude that races are won or lost based on debates alone. But what is indisputable is that presidential debates often create long-lasting images and indelible moments.

The eight clips below represent some of the most memorable debate moments from the television era, dating from 1960 – 2008.

John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon: Makeup matters (1960)

Few can recall what Richard Nixon said in the first televised presidential debate with John F. Kennedy in 1960, but many people remember how he looked. Nixon, who refused makeup, appeared pale and sweaty. Kennedy, who wore makeup, looked poised and comfortable.

Americans who heard the debate on the radio concluded that Nixon had won; those who watched it on television sided with Kennedy.

Gerald Ford: There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe (1976)

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