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1960 United States presidential debates

September 26–October 21, 1960 1976 →
Nominee John F. Kennedy Richard Nixon
Party Democratic Republican
Home state Massachusetts California
Running mate Lyndon B. Johnson Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

The 1960 United States presidential debates were a series of debates held during the 1960 presidential election between Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy and Republican nominee Richard Nixon. The four presidential debates were the first series of debates conducted for any presidential election. The next presidential debate did not occur until 1976, after which debates would become a regular feature of all presidential campaigns.


In 1960, John F. Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts was nominated by the Democratic party as their presidential nominee.[1] He chose the Senate Democratic leader Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate.[1] The Republican party nominated the incumbent vice president Richard Nixon as their presidential nominee, with Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., the United States ambassador to the United Nations, as his running mate.[2] Most polls after the party conventions showed the Nixon–Lodge ticket having a six point lead over the Kennedy–Johnson ticket.[3]



1960 United States presidential election debates
 No. Date and time Host Location Moderator Participants
 P  Participant  
Republican Democratic
Vice President
Richard Nixon
of California
John F. Kennedy
of Massachusetts

September 26, 1960
9:30 –10:30 p.m. EDT
WBBM-TV Chicago, Illinois Howard K. Smith P P

October 7, 1960
7:30 – 8:30 p.m. EDT
WRC-TV Washington, D.C. Frank McGee P P

October 13, 1960
7:30 – 8:30 p.m. EDT
ABC Studios New York City, New York
Los Angeles, California
Bill Shadel P P

October 21, 1960
10:00 – 11:00 p.m. EDT
ABC Studios New York City, New York Quincy Howe P P

First presidential debate (WBBM-TV, Chicago)

First presidential debate
Date(s)September 26, 1960 (1960-09-26)
LocationChicago, Illinois
ParticipantsJohn F. Kennedy
Richard Nixon
Moderator(s)Howard K. Smith of CBS

The first presidential debate was held at WBBM-TV, Chicago on Monday September 26, 1960. Howard K. Smith moderated the debate with Sander Vanocur, Charles Warren, Stuart Novins and Bob Fleming as panelists. Questions were restricted to internal or domestic American matters. The format decided was:

Nixon refused make-up for the first debate, subsequently his facial stubble showed prominently on black-and-white television screens. During the debate, Nixon started sweating under the studio lights. His light gray suit faded into the backdrop of the set and seemed to match his skin tone. Reacting to this, his mother immediately called him and asked whether he was sick. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in an interview said:

My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died.[4]

Nixon blamed his poor performance on hitting his knee on a car door in Greensboro, North Carolina, after which he had to be hospitalized for a staph infection.[5]

Second presidential debate (WRC-TV, Washington D.C.)

Second debate[6]

The second presidential debate was held at WRC-TV, Washington, D.C., on Friday October 7, 1960. Frank McGee moderated the debate with Paul Niven, Edward P. Morgan, Alan Spivak and Harold R. Levy as panelists. Questions were related to internal American matters, foreign relations, economy, etc. The format decided was:

Third presidential debate (ABC Studios New York and Los Angeles)

The third presidential debate was held virtually at ABC studio in Los Angeles for Nixon and ABC studio in New York City for Kennedy on October 13, 1960. Bill Shadel moderated the debate with Frank McGee, Charles Van Fremd, Douglass Cater and Roscoe Drummond as panelists. Shadel moderated the debate from a different television studio in Los Angeles. The topic of the debate was whether military force should be used to prevent Quemoy and Matsu, two island archipelagos off the Chinese coast, from falling under Communist control.[7] The format decided was:

This debate was considered a "monumental step for television".

Fourth presidential debate (ABC studio, New York City)

The fourth presidential debate was held at ABC studio, New York City on Friday October 21, 1960. Quincy Howe moderated the debate with Frank Singiser, John Edwards, Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor as panelists. Questions were related to Foreign affairs. The format decided was:


  1. ^ a b Donaldson 2007, pp. 76–80.
  2. ^ Pietrusza 2008, pp. 221–228.
  3. ^ Donaldson 2007, p. 93.
  4. ^ Donaldson 2007, p. 128.
  5. ^ Fernandez, Jennifer (February 21, 2022). "Hail to the Chief: Presidential visits to Guilford County". News and Record.
  6. ^ "1960 debates". Commission on Presidential Debates. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  7. ^ October 13, 1960 Debate Transcript.

Works cited


Other sources