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How Do Presidential Debates Affect Campaign Fundraising?

I must say that the longer this presidential campaigning goes on, the more interested I get. I particularly like how in recent weeks the candidates are showing more of their personalities.

From President Obama’s rendition of Rev. Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” to Newt Gingrich’s snappy comeback to CNN moderator John King for opening a debate with a question concerning his ex-wife, I certainly like these more human sides of the candidates. Add the recent Republican debates to the mix, and now the election is starting to get really fascinating. Are the political fundraising numbers reflecting all the media attention that these men are garnering?

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the debates. In a battle of wit, words and wisdom, the candidates are rallied on the defensive to cut the other down and rise fairly unscathed. To me it just feels like bumbling rhetoric and back biting. On the other hand, well practiced speeches with teleprompters rarely gives the public a full sense of the value of the candidate either.

I can’t help but think of the first televised debate for the 1960 presidential election between John F. Kenney and Richard Nixon. While I was not even a glimmer in my parents’ eyes, as a history major I was intrigued by this event. The television viewers thought that Kennedy had won the debates due to his fit appearance and charisma while Nixon was recovering from an illness and seemed rather disheveled. The radio listeners thought that Nixon had better formed points and was more knowledgeable.

Interestingly enough, the Great Debates of 1960 also showed that this televised event didn’t change voters’ opinions but only solidified who they supported. 70 million viewers were glued to their screens however only 6% said that they voted based on what they had seen. Does this still seem to be the case?

Possibly. Even with Gingrich’s negative press concerning allegations from his ex-wife, his win in the South Carolina primary made him a serious contender for the Republican nomination.  But don’t count Ron Paul out. Twitter has some statistics up on @mentionmachine that reports that Gingrich has had 286,313 Twitter mentions this week while Paul has 319,394. Does this equal voter support and high fundraising dollars?

Probably not, but just when you think you know what’s going to happen next in this electoral race, you realize that you were wrong.