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PRESS Pass: Do debates matter?

Legendary debate moderator Jim Lehrer on the importance of debates and some of the best debate moments. Then, strategists Kevin Madden and Ron Klain on prepping candidates for debates and the importance of their performances.

Legendary news anchor Jim Lehrer says debates are “probably the single most important events of a Presidential campaign,” and that they are always an essential part of the public’s presidential choice.  What the public wants, he says, is a chance to take a “final measure” of the candidate and a chance to consider whether they can see “that person sitting behind a desk in the Oval Office.”

In a special live edition of PRESS Pass that was streamed on Facebook, David discussed the defining debate moments over the years, like Ronald Reagan’s famous age quip to Walter Mondale, which Reagan told Lehrer he had not prepared beforehand. Lehrer also reflected on the difficulty of being a moderator, which he said is “not pure journalism” and offered his advice for future debate hosts: “Look in a mirror and say ‘it’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me.’”

In addition to Lehrer, David talked with former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Biden and Gore, Ron Klain - who has prepared Democratic Presidential nominees for debates since 1992 - and Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign communications director, Kevin Madden. They gave a behind-the-scenes look at debate preparation from the campaigns’ perspective. Both emphasized the importance of tailoring debate prep to the personality of their candidates, and shared their techniques from their own experiences on the campaigns of Al Gore and Mitt Romney.

Watch the full PRESS Pass/ Facebook Live event for Jim Lehrer’s take on famous debate moments, and more from Ron Klain and Kevin Madden on their debate prep experiences