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Tags: campaign | quotes | best list | presidential | debates

Newsmax's List of Most Memorable Presidential Campaign Lines

President Donald Trump points at Hillary Clinton in a 2016 presidential debate
President Donald Trump points at Hillary Clinton in a 2016 presidential debate. (AP)

Michael Dorstewitz By Wednesday, 02 September 2020 04:53 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Sound bytes from speeches and debates can make or break a presidential campaign.

Even catchy campaign slogans like "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" – which propelled William Henry Harrison and John Tyler to victory in the 1840 presidential election – have had an effect on campaigns.

Here is Newsmax's chronological list of the most memorable lines — some good, some bad — delivered since presidential campaigns were televised. The list includes primary elections and general elections.

1960, "Not second best" John F. Kennedy

The year 1960 marked the first televised presidential debate between candidates in a general election. In this case it was between then-Sen. Kennedy, D-Mass., and then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon.

Kennedy struck a chord with American voters when he said

"We can no longer afford to be second best. I want people all over the world to look to the United States again, to feel that we're on the move, to feel that our high noon is in the future."

His words of hope and determination, combined with his youthful appearance on camera, propelled him into the White House that November. Nixon, in contrast, reportedly refused to wear makeup for the cameras, making him appear tired and unshaven.

Those who listened to the debate on radio, however, thought Nixon was the winner, believing he came across as more knowledgeable and presidential.

1976, "No Soviet domination," Gerald R. Ford

Just as the right line delivered at the right moment can make a campaign, the wrong one can break it. That happened when then-President Ford delivered this one during a debate with his Democratic opponent, Jimmy Carter.

Ford said:

"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration."

It sounded as though Ford did not understand the realities of Soviet-bloc countries in Eastern Europe and that hurt him. Ford meant to convey two truths of the era: one, that the people caught behind the Iron Curtain did not consider themselves Soviet citizens, and two, the United States would not officially recognize the Soviet Union's influence over its neighbors. But that is not how his statement was interpreted.

1980, "There you go again," Ronald Reagan

During the only debate between President Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger Ronald Reagan, Carter droned on about his proposed national health insurance program. Reagan, "the Great Communicator," thought Carter was being repetitious and misstating his own beliefs about Medicare.

He replied, "there you go again" in good humor – a remark that elicited laughter from the audience and endeared him to voters.

Reagan then went on to explain his actual beliefs on Medicare.

1980, "Better off?" Ronald Reagan

During the same debate, Reagan captured the essence of the entire campaign into a 10-word question, one he asked voters to answer for themselves as they stood in the polling place.

Reagan said:

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Unlike his "there you go again," this line was delivered on a serious note and helped send Reagan to his first term in the White House.

1984, "Where's the beef," Walter Mondale

During the 1984 Democratic presidential primary season, Mondale, who served as Carter's vice president, challenged then-Sen. Gary Hart's progressive proposals. The youthful Colorado Democrat billed himself as "the candidate with new ideas."

Mondale replied to one of Hart's numerous proposals:

"When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: 'Where's the beef?'"

The former vice president was referring to a then-popular Wendy's fast food restaurant TV ad where an elderly lady lifts up the bun of a hamburger she is served at a competing chain and asks, "Where's the beef."

Mondale's line at the debate was just as humorous and identifiable as the commercial and helped paint Hart as someone with ideas that lacked substance.

1984, "Age not an issue," Ronald Reagan

Mondale went on to win the Democratic presidential nomination, beating out a large field of hopefuls. But he was no challenge to Reagan, the incumbent.

Well into the debate The Baltimore Sun's moderator, Henry Trehwitt, raised the age issue, telling Reagan, then 73: "You already are the oldest president in history." Trehwitt then asked: "Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?"

The response turned the question on its head and was pitch-perfect.

Reagan replied:

"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."

He brought the house down, including Mondale, with that one.

1988, "Read my lips," George H.W. Bush

Bush, who was Reagan's vice president, was unanimously nominated at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, on a promise forcefully delivered to the delegates.

Bush said:

"Read my lips: No new taxes."

This was an important issue to the GOP after a series of tax cuts implemented during the Reagan administration.

Although that line secured the nomination and election of Bush in 1988, it led to his loss four years later when he signed tax hikes into law.

2008, "You're likable enough," Barack Obama

The Democratic presidential nomination came down to two personalities, running nearly neck-and-neck: Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

Clinton, the early front-runner, appeared staid and prim as compared to the "cool" image that Obama projected.

Clinton admitted her opponent was "very likable" when asked about her appeal to voters, adding she did not believe she was "that bad."

Obama interjected:

“You're likable enough, Hillary, no doubt about it."

The remark was widely considered condescending.

2012, "Clear eyes," Mitt Romney

During their third and final presidential debate of the 2012 season, GOP nominee Romney and President Obama crossed swords on a number of issues, including Russia.

The former Massachusetts governor brought up a remark Obama had made months earlier, asking Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin he will have "more flexibility" after the election.

Romney told Obama:

"I have clear eyes on this. I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin, and I'm certainly not going to say to him, 'I'll give you more flexibility after the election.' After the election, he'll get more backbone."

It was a great line, delivered with total conviction, but not enough to defeat the incumbent.

2016, "You'd be in jail," Donald Trump

During the 2016 general campaign season, Trump's favorite moniker for the former secretary of state was "Crooked Hillary."

Trump raised the issue about 20 minutes into the second presidential debate when he claimed, if elected, he will have a special prosecutor appointed to look into Clinton's past misdeeds.

"It's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country," Clinton said.

Trump shot back:

"Because you'd be in jail."

For Trump supporters it was the highlight of the evening.

Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports More Here.

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Here is Newsmax's chronological list of the most memorable lines, some good, some bad, delivered since presidential campaigns were televised.
campaign, quotes, best list, presidential, debates
Wednesday, 02 September 2020 04:53 PM
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