Today's candidates shouldn't forget Kansas City's 1984 president - KCTV5

Today's candidates shouldn't forget Kansas City's 1984 presidential debate

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A security official stands in the hall the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman) A security official stands in the hall the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Political pundits are expecting Super Bowl-sized ratings for Monday's presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at Hofstra University in New York.

The occasion has some locals thinking fondly about the time Kansas City hosted a presidential debate on Oct. 21, 1984, inside the walls of Municipal Auditorium. The candidates were popular incumbent Ronald Reagan, and former vice president Walter Mondale.

“When you study presidential debates, the one that happened here in Kansas City, Regan vs. Mondale, was huge,” said Gabe Cook, executive director of Debate Kansas City.

Reagan and Mondale squared off in a 90-minute televised debate for the second time.

A month earlier, Reagan had a 54-percent approval rating and the debates were seen as Mondale’s only chance to close the gap. And he got off to a good start, with many feeling Mondale won the first debate over “The Great Communicator.”

“People were starting to question Reagan’s age,” Cook said. “And he used humor to deflect that concern.”

“I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” Reagan said during the 1984 debate. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

The joke drew laughs from the crowd, as well as from Mondale himself.

To this day, some historians say Mondale lost the election that fateful night in Kansas City because of Reagan’s memorable quote.

“Presidential debates can be decided by one or two great lines that separate themselves from the rest of the night,” Cook said.

Today’s candidates can take this lesson from the past because it may come down to a couple small details for Trump or Clinton.

“Trump needs to seem in command. He’s most effective when he’s on the attack,” Cook said. “If she can have a steady debate and maybe steal the night with one or two great lines or counter-attacks on Trump, then it could be a win for Hillary,” he said.

In 1984, the debates didn't seem to mean much because of Reagan's huge lead.

But with Clinton and Trump being neck-and-neck, a win in Monday night’s debate could prove to be a huge jump toward the presidency.

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