With the Democratic presidential primary debates being held every month, it’s hard to remember that this is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics.
The first such debate took place 64 years ago in the 1956 election season.
They didn’t become regular fixtures until the 1980s.
It all began on May 21, 1956, when Democrats Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver squared off in a one hour debate on ABC News. Each candidate gave a three-minute opening statement, a five-minute closing statement, and had questions in between.
The moderator was Quincy Howe.
That debate played an important role in the transition to the television era of American politics.
Four years earlier, the presidential nominating conventions had been televised for the first time. Four years later, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon held the first nationally televised general election debate. Many believed his television-ready style helped Kennedy win a very close election.
It’s worth noting that Stevenson and Kefauver competed for the nomination in both 1952 and 1956. Stevenson won the nomination at a brokered convention and Kefauver became his running mate. The results were the same in 1956 and the ticket again lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower in a landslide.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the last brokered convention was held just as television was making its presence felt on the political scene. Backroom haggling isn’t as visually compelling as carefully scripted productions.
Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology. Columns published on Ballotpedia reflect the views of the author. Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia weekdays at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Columns published on Ballotpedia reflect the views of the author.
Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia weekdays at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Columns published on Ballotpedia reflect the views of the author.Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of the Rasmussen Media Group. He is the author of "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System," "In Search of Self-Governance," and "The People’s Money: How Voters Will Balance the Budget and Eliminate the Federal Debt." Read more reports from Scott Rasmussen — Click Here Now.
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