The Debate That Changed Politics

“Kennedy knew it was going to be important. He rested that afternoon. Nixon made a speech to the Carpenters Union that day in Chicago — thought this was just another campaign appearance that night — was ill. Arrived at the studio, banged his knee when he got out of the car, was in pain, looked green, sallow, needed a shave.” – Don Hewitt

With a little over a month to go until election day, polling showed Republican Vice-president Richard Nixon with a slim lead over his rival, Democratic Senator John Kennedy, in the race to choose the successor to two-term President Dwight Eisenhower. On September 26, 1960 both candidates met at a CBS television studio in Chicago. For the first time ever, the presidential debate would be televised. Seventy-million viewers tuned in that evening.

Those who listened to the debate on the radio perceived Nixon as victorious. Television viewers saw Kennedy as the clear winner.

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