Monday night’s debate had plenty of drama for the record number of viewers who tuned in to watch presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in the first of three televised debates.
Peter Kastor, a professor of history and American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, joined St. Louis on the Air on Tuesday to both dissect the debate and compare it to other historical moments in televised debate history.
“One thing people have found is that when debates seem to have an impact on the final outcome of the election, is when that election is close,” Kastor said. “So: the 1960 election, the 2000 election. This might be a debate series that matters. There are a fair number of voters who have not aligned fully with either candidate.”
Trying to predict how much this debate will matter now is tough.
“We can guess about it now but it will be entirely determined by the election,” Kastor said. “The problem with debates is that our memory of them is refracted through the outcome of the election. Here’s where we could see the election going in a certain direction.”
Kastor said the line that stuck out to him was Hillary Clinton’s “Well Donald, I know you live in your own reality.”
“It was so short, so powerfully delivered,” Kastor said. “If she wins, that may well be the phrase that is used to frame this entire election sequence. It may wind up alongside Ronald Reagan’s ‘there you go again’ comments, and others that seem off the cuff but are really about the other candidate.”
Listen to the comparisons Kastor draws between last night’s debate and other key debates in the history of presidential elections here: