First general presidential debate was not held until 1960, several other debates are considered predecessors to the presidential debates.
The series of seven debates in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas for U.S. Senate were true, face-to-face debates, with no moderator; the candidates took it in turns to open each debate with a one-hour speech, then the other candidate had an hour and a half to rebut, and finally the first candidate closed the debate with a half-hour response. In 1948, a radio debate was held in Oregon between Thomas E. Dewey and Harold Stassen, Republican primary candidates for president.
The dramatic effect of televised presidential debates turned and defined “must watch” television into a curiosity meter. Some of the debates can feature the candidates standing behind their podiums, or in conference tables with the moderator on the other side. Depending on the agreed format, either the moderator or an audience member can be the one to ask questions. Typically there are no opening statements, just closing statements.
A coin toss determines who gets to answer the first question and each candidate will get alternate turns. Once a question is asked, the candidate has 2 minutes to answer the question. After this, the opposing candidate has around 1 minute to respond and rebut her/is arguments. At the moderator’s discretion, the discussion of the question may be extended by 30 seconds per candidate. In recent debates, colored lights resembling traffic lights have been installed to aide the candidate as to the time left with green indicating 30 seconds, yellow indicating 15 seconds and red indicating only 5 seconds are left. If necessary, a buzzer may be used or a flag.
All debates will take place from 9:00-10:30 p.m. EDT on the following dates:
Thursday, October 11 – Vice Presidential Debate
Tuesday, October 16 – Second Presidential Debate (Town Hall)
Monday, October 22 – Third Presidential Debate