Ten game-changers that could decide the presidential race

Presidential debates

Democratic strategists say Gore’s debate performance against Bush in 2000 hobbled him. Gore’s audible sighs from behind the podium gave many voters a negative impression of him.

Four years later, Kerry tightened the race against Bush by winning the first debate.

“Debates are always game changers. If you kick somebody’s butt in a debate, that matters a lot. It changes votes. It changes media narratives,” said Lux, the Democratic strategist.

A candidate must demonstrate mastery over policy details, nimbly dodge attacks and counterpunch, and come across as likeable.

Gore’s sighs created a condescending impression. McCain’s refusal to look at Obama on the debate stage made him look petulant to some analysts.