Dos and don'ts from past presidential debates

Practice, practice, practice

So after some pulling and tugging, the president [Carter] agreed to see us in Plains. I think it was a Saturday or a Sunday. We got down there, and we sat in his living room, and I said, “Governor, we have some questions here, and perhaps what we ought to do is throw some questions at you and let you answer, and then we’ll critique it.”

Oh no, that was not going to be done. He didn’t need that. Somehow he either said or implied that that would be contrived, and that was just not the way he was going to do it. He didn’t mind talking through some points, but he was not going to go through any sort of rehearsal. So we talked through it a little bit. I don’t think the session lasted more than an hour or so, and that was it. That was his preparation for the first debate. . . . And then the first debate occurred. His first answer to the first question [about how he would address unemployment] was as dreadful as one could possibly imagine.

— Stuart Eizenstat, assistant to Jimmy Carter, on the 1976 debates