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you're no jack kennedy

Ahead of Obama vs Romney: Top 5 moments from US presidential debates

Obama and Romney will go head to head for the first time in a presidential debate tonight – but here’s 5 stand-out moments from previous presidential races.

WITH JUST 35 days to go until the US presidential election, tonight’s presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is being seen as a potential game-changer.

The televised debate will be the first time that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have gone head to head and is seen as a crucial test for both.

Polls continue to show that Obama maintains a slight lead ahead of his Republican challenger, who was damaged after a video emerged showing him criticising 47 per cent of America’s population for being welfare-dependent. Meanwhile Obama’s campaign is concerned about a possible low turnout on the day of the election if minority groups which supported Obama in 2008 stay away from the polls on 6 November, causing potential upsets in swing states.

The debate will kick off at the University of Denver at 9pm Eastern Time (2am in Ireland) and will focus on domestic policy.

Meanwhile here’s our top 5 most memorable moments from US presidential debates over the years:

Richard Nixon versus John F Kennedy, 1960:

(Video: JFKLF/YouTube)

The very first televised presidential debate in 1960 signalled a shift into a new era with a focus on image. Richard Nixon refused to wear make-up under the studio lights and appeared pale and sweaty. By comparison, John F Kennedy appeared at relaxed and at ease. As urban legend goes, radio listeners gave the debate to Nixon, but television viewers gave the victory to Kennedy – who went on to win the election.

Gerald Ford on the Soviet Union, 1976

(Video: lawford83/YouTube)

In the first presidential debate held after the initial 1960 debut, then-president Gerald Ford made a crucial gaffe when he was asked about the Soviet Union’s influence on Europe. “There is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe and there never will be,” he said – leading to a somewhat incredulous reaction from the moderator.

Michael Dukasis on the death penalty, 1988

(Video: lawford83/YouTube)

The very first question in the 1988 presidential debate asked then-governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis if he would favour the death penalty if his wife were raped and murdered. Dukakis said that he wouldn’t, pointing out that he had opposed the death penalty his entire life. However the public saw the answer as solidifying his reputation for being cold and dispassionate. His poll numbers dropped literally overnight and George HW Bush went on to win one of the most comprehensive victories ever in a US presidential election.

Dan Quayle is no JFK, 1988

(Video: jraan/YouTube)

Also from the 1988 election but this time the vice presidential debate, Democratic senator Lloyd Bentsen delivered a knock-out blow to Republican candidate Dan Quayle, who compared his own record to that of John F Kennedy. Bentsen told him: ”Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”.

George Bush checks his watch, 1992

(Video: smotus/YouTube)

It was not so much what he said as the body language. In the 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton, George HW Bush checked his watch as a young voter asked him a question about how the recession had affected him personally. The president’s answer was rambling and did not go down well with the American public –  especially in comparison with Bill Clinton answer in which he empathised with the voter.

Video: Democrats mash up Mitt Romney’s new campaign ad >

Read: Autumn’s must see political TV: presidential candidate debates >

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