Thursday night’s much-anticipated GOP debate is projected to draw one of the biggest audiences ever for a presidential debate in the primary season.
As the eclectic mix of GOP presidential candidates prepare for what it bound to be an interesting and eye-opening debate, here’s a look back at 10 of the best quotes and moments from past presidential debates, some serious, some thought-provoking, and some hilarious.
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1. Lloyd Bentsen, 1988
- “I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency,” Dan Quayle said during his debate with Lloyd Bentsen. Answered Bentsen: “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
2. Ronald Reagan, 1984
- When answering a comment about being the oldest president in U.S. history and a question about his age in a 1984 debate with Walter Mondale, Reagan said, “I want you to know also that I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
3. Nixon, Kennedy, 1960
- The Washington Post pointed out that it’s not always
what’s said at a debate that makes an impact. In the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960, Nixon didn’t use makeup and generally looked much less relaxed than Kennedy, who took the day off to prepare.
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4. John McCain, 2008
- McCain called Barack Obama “that one” during the debate, in reference to who voted for an energy bill. “Do you know who voted for it? That one,” he said, pointing toward Obama. “Do you know who voted against it? Me.” The phrasing stirred up discussion in the days after and centered around whether McCain’s comment was “a stroke of condescension, contempt, or was it just plain confusing,” The Post reported.
5. Rick Perry, 2012
- During the 2012 debate, Perry completely forgot which three agencies he planned to eliminate if he was elected president.
6. Gerald Ford, 1976
- Time magazine placed Ford’s infamous 1976 comment
— “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” — in the No. 1 spot of most memorable past debate moments. He flummoxed moderator Max Frankel of The New York Times, who said, "I'm sorry, what? . . . did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a communist zone?"
7. Michael Dukakis, 1988
- The candidate's comments during this debate affected his political career when he gave what many saw as an unfeeling response to a death penalty question. Dukakis was asked how he’d feel about the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered. The presidential candidate maintained calmly, “I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."
8. Al Gore, 2000
- As Gore and George H.W. Bush were debating, Gore repeatedly sighed loudly in his microphone. Several times. The moment became looked at as a show of condescension toward his opponent, The Post said.
9. James Stockdale, 1992
- Little-known vice president candidate Admiral James Stockdale, in introducing himself at a debate, opened with the questions, “Who am I? Why am I here?” Everyone laughed as he introduced himself, but over the next weeks of the campaign, those two questions made for a lot of media fodder.
10. Hillary Clinton, 2008
- An awkward moment in a debate between Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008 left many laughing, ABC News reported
When the moderator asked for Clinton’s response to the fact that people seemed to find Obama more “likeable,” she answered, "Well, that hurts my feelings. But I'll try to go on. He's very likable. I agree with that. I don't think I'm that bad."
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At that point, Obama looked up from where he was writing on a paper and said, "You're likable enough, Hillary." He then went back to writing.
"I appreciate that," Clinton answered with a laugh.
The top 10 GOP candidates in the 2016 presidential election will debate at 9 p.m. EST on Fox. They include Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. Those candidates not in the top 10 will debate at 5 p.m.
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