AllPolitics - Debates '96
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Face-Off In Hartford

President Bill Clinton and rival Bob Dole argued over Medicare, the economy, education and tax cuts in the first of two debates. After the candidates' spirited but civil exchange, most people gave high marks to Dole, but said it hadn't changed their mind about which man to support on Nov. 5.

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Best Pander

- Bob Dole dropping his Web address

Image Of The Night

"It is not midnight in America, Senator, we are better off than we were four years ago."
- Bill Clinton

Best One-Liner

"Well, he's better off than he was four years ago...and I may be better off four years from now."
- Bob Dole on whether the country is better off today

Best No Comment

"No comment."
- Clinton responding to a question about possible Whitewater pardons


Debate Analysis

So who won the debate? Clinton or Dole? That's the question everyone is asking, and nearly everybody has a different answer.

President Bill Clinton did what he had to do: committed no major gaffes, stayed largely above the fray, acted presidential. No disastrous highlight films here. GOP challenger Bob Dole turned in a steady if unspectacular performance, mixing flashes of wit with a persistent critique of the Clinton Administration. No hatchet man, no wandering thoughts, no disasters.

Calling it a draw would probably be fair. But a draw, in reality, is a Clinton win, because the debate most likely did nothing to change the fundamental course of the campaign. And that could be construed as a disaster for Dole, who remains mired in a double-digit deficit in the polls.

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