Debates | St. Louis Public Radio


Debate signage installed on the front of the Athletics Complex, Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University | Flickr

Updated Thursday, Oct. 6 at 1:20 p.m. with traffic closure details  Last Monday night featured the first presidential debate of the year and the first time Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off one-on-one over plans and policy. It was the most-watched debate in televised debate history.

But what about the second round? In addition to a different format, a town hall, the second debate is at Washington University. It has hosted more debates than any other institution in history.

Candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon pose following their 1960 presidential debate.
Associated Press via Wikimedia Commons

Washington University was recently tapped — for the sixth time — to host a presidential debate next October, when the current, far-flung battlefield of candidates will be distilled to a ring for just two opponents.

Though it seems a lifetime away, the extraordinary popularity of the more recent GOP primary debates has many — including all those St. Louisans who will scramble for tickets to the candidate face-off this time next year — wondering how the eventual presidential debates might look. And it has some wondering, why do we care? Do debates even matter?

Steve Stenger, Democrat, left, and Rick Stream, Republican, are running for St. Louis County executive.
Photos courtesy of the candidates

St. Louis County executive candidates Steve Stenger and Rick Stream will face off in a public debate Oct. 14 hosted by St. Louis Public Radio in partnership with the University of Missouri–St. Louis. It is the first planned debate ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

McCaskill And Akin Square Off In Final Debate

Oct 18, 2012
(Akin: UPI Bill Greenblatt/McCaskill: Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill)

Incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill and Republican challenger Todd Akin squared off in their final debate of the campaign last night. Those hoping for a slugfest were probably disappointed.

In fact, Akin’s previous “legitimate rape” comment largely went ignored, and the two candidates didn’t cover much new ground.

They mostly stuck to the talking points they’ve used on the campaign trail – McCaskill portrayed herself as a moderate.

President Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, engaged Thursday night in a sometimes spirited, but always cordial, debate that got very technical at times.

It was the "corporate executive" (Romney) vs. the "government professor" (Obama) and the GOP nominee appeared to be "full of confidence and full of sales pitch," NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving says, while Obama put pressure on the Republican to explain what he would do as president.

Looking to see and hear what the fact checkers are saying during and after tonight's presidential debate about the claims made by President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney?

-- says it will be updating on its website and on Twitter. It's also pitching an Argument Ender app.

How Politicians Get Away With Dodging The Question

Oct 3, 2012

Brett O'Donnell is a debate consultant who trains Republican candidates. He has worked with George W. Bush and John McCain, and for a short time earlier this year, he helped prep Mitt Romney.

O'Donnell is an expert on "the pivot."

Panel names sites of official presidential debates, Wash. U listed as backup

Oct 31, 2011
(via Flickr/kennedy22)

The committee that sponsors presidential debates during the general election has chosen Denver, Hempstead, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla., as the sites for three debates in October 2012. They are to take place, barring any unforseen changes, as follows.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday that the debates between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger will take place:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 31, 2011 - Washington University in St. Louis is disappointed, but not surprised, by today's news that its 20-year run as a debate site for the quadrennial presidential, and vice presidential, debates has officially come to a close -- probably.

"We put our best foot forward," said Rob Wild, assistant to Chancellor Mark Wrighton. But he added that university officials also recognized that it "was probably unrealistic to have high hopes'' given the school's string of selections -- unmatched by any other university in the country.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 13, 2011 - Republican U.S. Senate Sarah Steelman says she's not backing down from her so-far-failed quest to begin holding public debates with her GOP rivals, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Wildwood and St. Louis businessman John Brunner.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 15, 2008 - A bipartisan panel of local lawyers, scholars and political leaders who watched Wednesday night’s final presidential debate suggested that the political momentum was on the side of Democratic nominee Barack Obama. But some members added that it was still too early to say that GOP challenger John McCain couldn’t win in November.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - As recently as Aug. 31, the vice-presidential debate scheduled for this evening at Washington University, offered little in the way of anticipation or excitement. However, since the Republican National Convention in Denver, and the surprising showing of the unheralded and largely unknown Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, self-described Hockey Mom and youthful new face of the GOP, the vice-presidential debate turned into the most anticipated theatrical event of the season.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - Gov. Sarah Palin gave a strong performance in Thursday night's vice-presidential debate at Washington University -- but so did Sen. Joe Biden, said those attending the 90-minute face-off, as they exited the hall.

Palin powers up debate rally

Oct 2, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - She came among them as they held their "Palin's Hot/Biden's Not" signs and as they chanted "USA!" Whether in the eyes of the nation she was the winner or not didn't matter to those gathered at Chaifetz Arena to see Gov. Sarah Palin less than an hour after her one and only debate of this year's presidential campaign.

The crowd screamed and the applause was deafening as Palin's tour bus, the "Straight Talk Express," pulled into the arena in a cloud of smoke.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - Sarah Barracuda showed up for the vice presidential debate at Washington University Thursday night with Sen. Joseph Biden. Gov. Palin looked straight into the camera to appeal directly to "Joe Sixpack," promising to put the "government back on the side of the people and to stop the greed on Wall Street."

St. Louisans debate the vice presidential debate

Oct 2, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - The leaders of Washington University's College Republicans and College Democrats spoke to the Beacon last night about their expectations heading into tonight's debate. Here's what each had to say following the event:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 2, 2008 - Sen. John McCain will not, of course, be on stage at the vice-presidential debate but in a very real sense the debate is as much about him as about anyone or anything else. The event constitutes a reckoning of sorts for him. Voters will be observing and judging the performance of Gov. Sarah Palin but the conclusions they reach will and should shape their assessment of Sen. McCain.

Commentary: Looking for the right John

Oct 1, 2008

"Business? In this business, you're always one step away from bankruptcy. Funny money, credit, speculation... Somewhere in this country there's a little old lady with seventy-nine dollars and twenty-five cents. And the five cents is a Buffalo nickel... If she cashes in her investment, the whole thing'll collapse -- General Motors, the Pentagon, the DuPont Sisters and the whole shebang... We're all runnin' downhill. Gotta keep runnin' faster all the time or it'll all fall down..."

— the late character actor, Dub Taylor, as disgruntled gas station operator in 1974 film, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 1, 2008 - At the opening of the vice presidential debate in 1996 in St. Petersburg, Fla., Jack Kemp couldn't resist getting in a critical comment about the fact that he and Al Gore would have only 90 seconds each to answer complex questions on domestic and foreign policy issues. The ever loquacious Kemp, who was running on the GOP ticket with Sen. Bob Dole, blurted out to Jim Lehrer of PBS' "NewsHour":

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 30, 2008 - What impact did Friday's presidential debate have on the contest? It's best to wait a few days before making firm assessments. The immediate readings from same day and next day polls might be capturing fleeting impressions. That initial Friday night perception might change after weekend conversations with the neighbors and Monday lunch discussions at the workplace.