Politics & Policy

The First Debate

The Great Communicator didn't communicate that night.

EDITOR’S NOTE:This editorial paragraph appeared in “The Week” section of the November 2, 1984, issue of National Review.

The President’s performance in the first debate (see “The Debate,” p. 16) was by no means as poor as general comment would suggest. He “lost” only in the sense that he fell short of expectations, while Walter Mondale gave the performance of his life (and was still only marginally better than usual). Reagan was obviously overwound, overcoached, overstatisticized. These events aren’t high-school debates, and you don’t win on points. Ronbald Reagan isn’t the best campaigner of his generation because of his mnemonic gifts, such as they are. He has triumphed not by remembering things, but by saying things people remember. Next time he should bring his eloquence along. That’s one thing Walter Mondale won’t be ready for, no matter how he prepares.

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