ROBERT MacNEIL: We're back now, for a full analysis of the Carter-Reagan encounter we've just witnessed. With us to score the debate as they saw it we have two top political pros, and added to their perspective that of journalists from around the nation and from Washington. Jim?
JIM LEHRER: Robin, our first analytical shot goes to a Washington reporter, John Stacks, national political correspondent for Time magazine. Was there a clear winner, John?
JOHN STACKS: I think not. I hate to use a sports analogy in this--
STACKS: -in this moment, but it was really like a hyped Super Bowl, I think, in which both teams played extremely defensively, and the game became rather dull. I don't think either man fundamentally changed the balance of power in this election.
LEHRER: Just to get it out of the way, there were no monumental flubs, gaffes, or anything like that, in your opinion?
STACKS: No, I think in a technical sense they both did quite well. They both handled themselves with reserve, with calm. They both made the points that their pollsters and their advisors told them to make. They managed to squeeze those in despite the questions, as they were coached to do. And I think in that sense they both did well.
LEHRER: Do you have a vote for what was Carter's best moment?
STACKS: I thought Carter - knowing what Carter was told to emphasize - I think he did quite well, in a tactical sense, by using the word 'dangerous' an uncounted number of times, trying to convey the sense as he has all during the campaign that a vote for Reagan is a risky vote, and not only on defense and foreign affairs, but as emerged tonight on Social Security and social programs. And I think by getting that point across repeatedly, I think he did very well.
LEHRER: He used every opportunity, yeah. What about his worst moments?
STACKS: I don't think there was a 'worst moment' for either of them. Occasional kinds of lapses in the sense that they forgot what they were going to say, just for a brief instance-I think worst for both of them was the failure of either of them to transcend the moment and to rise above simply sending the salvos back and forth. Again. I would have to say on the positive side that both summations were rather good. I thought Carter's was slightly better and more coherent than Reagan's, but Reagan's was a little more emotional.
LEHRER: What about Governor Reagan? What do you think he did best? What were the positives for him?
STACKS: Well, I think the biggest positive for Reagan was to appear on the stage with the president of the United States, to trade facts and information with him on rather an equal footing, and I think perhaps to defend himself fairly well against the Carter charges of dangerousness. I think always Reagan's strength is his reassuring presence on television and in person, and I think he managed to maintain that tonight.
LEHRER: John, just from a simple news standpoint, was there anything that either man said that was what you would define as new or startling?
STACKS: No.1 found that the majority of the debate really was taken up with campaign speech material that had been retailored. There was not a lot of spontaneity, I don't think, from either man.
LEHRER: What about the style question, who was going to be the most presidential' and all of that? Would you call that pretty much a tie?
STACKS: I would say that was rather even. In that sense, then, maybe Reagan had a slight advantage by, again, appearing with the president. The president certainly didn't violate any rules about being too mean or too aggressive or too shrill or too manic in his approach. Reagan, on the other hand, was not sloppy in his facts or particularly lax in his approach intellectually.
LEHRER: I see. Thank you. John. Robin?
MacNEIL: Many people around the country will be forming or reinforcing their im-pressions of the debate by reading their local newspapers. With us are three men repre-senting such papers: Paul Reynolds. editorial page editor of the Bangor, Maine, Daily News; John Emmerich. editor and publisher of the Greenwood Commonwealth of Green-wood, Mississippi: and John McCormally, a columnist for the Harris Newspapers in Iowa. a chain which includes the Burlington Hawkeye which he used to publish. Mr. Reynolds, a clear winner in your view?
PAUL REYNOLDS: Yeah, slightly. I would give-I scored it Reagan six, Robin, and Carter four. I was impressed by the fact that Reagan I think held his own against Carter, and I think that was the name of the game for him, and I think he sustained himself, and I took a couple of other notes, too. John Stacks mentioned the point about the word 'dangerous', He said an uncounted number of times. I counted them, and he said the word dangerous six times, which I think was part of his goal to try to portray Reagan as a button-pushing war-monger.
MacNEIL: John Emmerich in Washington. Did you see a clear winner?
JOHN EMMERICH: I believe that I would give it to President Carter, because he pulled off what may have been a minor miracle in putting Governor Reagan on the defensive, when in effect it should have been Carter's past four years that should have been- he [Carter] should have been defending. And I thought that President Carter came across a little better as being younger, more- a little more articulate, a little more in command of the facts, and as this rather long debate continued it seems to me that President Carter got better and Governor Reagan appeared to be a little tired and older. And of course that age is a major factor.
MacNEIL: John McCormally, did you have a winner?
JOHN MCCORMALLY: Well, John Emmerich pretty much stole my stuff. John Stacks pointed out that Reagan did a good job of defending himself, and he did. But that's the point; he was on the defensive, when his whole hope in this campaign was to put the Carter record on the defensive. We talked about Carter using 'dangerous'. He also slipped in a lot of other jabs - maybe so subtly people won't notice them. But he also called Reagan 'heartless,' 'insensitive,' 'misleading,' 'disturbing,' 'irresponsible.' Reagan also got in some licks of his own: 'misstatement,' 'hypocritical,' 'just not true,' which brings me to a final point, if I can make it. I don't think either one of them enhanced their credibility tonight. I think the way they would be judged on these direct contradictions of one another was with whatever credibility the viewer brought to the debate. If you had- if you already like or believe Carter, you believed him tonight. and-
MacNEIL: The reinforcing impression-
MCCORMALLY: Yeah, reinforcing.
MacNEIL: Let's come back to you, Paul Reynolds. Do you think- go back to those voters in Maine who may not have made up their minds. Will any of them have been swayed by this, do you think?
REYNOLDS: I'm not sure, Robin. That's a tough question. I think one of the points that might have been missed so far is the fact that Reagan definitely showed that he was not the clumsy boob that he's been painted to be, and that he's very capable of articulating his positions under a lot of pressure. And I thought he had a definite presidential aura, but I also thought that Mr. Carter looked equally presidential, and I was quite encouraged by the debate. I think it was rather hope-auguring.
MacNEIL: John Emmerich, how do you rate Mr. Reagan on the presidential aura ques-tion. You scored Mr. Carter slightly ahead on the debate itself, but-
EMMERICH: Right. I believe that certainly anyone who already had decided to support Governor Reagan or vice versa, their minds were not going to be changed. But we were talking earlier about the importance of the undecided voters, and it seems to me if you were undecided going into this debate, well President Carter came across as a little more presidential. And certainly Governor Reagan did not do badly. But he seemed to be a little more bumbling to me than President Carter.
MacNEIL: Will this be any help to the voters of Iowa, in making up their mind, John McCormally?
McCORMALLY: I think very little. As I said earlier, I don't think there's that many undecided. I do agree with John Emmerich, again, that I think Carter had a little bit of the edge on being presidential. He certainly worked at it. He mentioned the words 'Oval Office' six times: he mentioned making 'these terrible decisions alone' three times, so it obviously was an aim of his going into the debate to keep saying in a little different way what Richard Nixon used to like to say, 'I am the President.'
MacNEIL: Well, thank you. Jim?
LEHRER: Also watching the debate with us were two political pros; one still active, the other retired. John Deardourff is a partner in one of the leading Republican political planning and consulting firms. His firm did the advertising and rnedia advising on the 1976 Ford campaign, among other things. Our retired pro is Frank Mankiewicz, press secretary to the late Senator Robert Kennedy, later campaign director of the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign, now president of National Public Radio. Frank, if you were one of the key advisers to either one of these men tonight. Did either one do anything that would have made you groan, or maybe even cry?
FRANK MANKIEWICZ: I'd like to say. Jim, before I start, that I never counted myself a professional politician, and I certainly don't count myself retired.
LEHRER: Well, I meant both of them as compliments. Frank.
MANKIEWICZ: If I were replaying the role I once did as kind of a dabbling amateur in politics, the only thing I thought possibly was where something went wrong was at the certain point where Governor Reagan went back to the ERA question after I thought it had been disposed of and almost in his favor. But that was a very minor, very minor matter. I think they both performed just about up to very close to the levels they probably set for themselves.
LEHRER: John Deardourff, what's your view of that?
JOHN DEARDOURFF: I thought, Jim, that on balance Governor Reagan helped himself tonight. I'm not sure whether he won the debate in that sense, but he came so close to winning if he didn't win that I think he really helped himself. I scored it-
LEHRER: In what way? In what did he help himself?
DEARDOURFF: Well, because there was a presumption, 1 think, that somehow - and certainly Carter fed this for weeks, saying 'I want to get this man face-to-face, head-to-head, we can hardly wait to get him in the ring with us' - I think they got in the ring together and by my own calculation, depending on how you score this thing, it was extremely close. I tried the old fight technique here of scoring it on points and then on rounds. I gave it to Reagan on points, but I had Carter ahead by one round. So-
LEHRER: You mean, by taking each question? Is that how you scored it?
DEARDOURFF: I took each question; there were eight questions. I scored it 4-3 and one even on the questions. And on points. a 10-point must system, I had it 73-74 Reagan. So, it couldn't have been any closer, and I frankly think that that's what Reagan needed to get out of this debate. He's ahead slightly in the latest polls - not by much, but he's ahead -and I think he came out of this as strong as he went in. maybe slightly stronger.
MANKIEWICZ: I think if there's anyone disappointed, it might President Carter at this point, because I don't think he rallied the normal Democratic vote in the way in which perhaps he had to do to get it out. I think-
LEHRER: He certainly tried. He mentioned it-
MANKIEWICZ: Well, he talked about it, but it didn't seem to me anything there to really rally the troops. I think Governor Reagan, after all, was talking in terms of 'get the government off the back of the people.' He said at one point - I thought it was his best point - 'It isn't that the American people are living too well. It's the government is living too well,' and he said it as though he believed it, and it had a kind of a ringing tone to it, I think President Carter spent maybe too much of his time talking about the complex difficulties of these foreign policy decisions, and not enough trying to get out what is really a very sluggish normal Democratic vote at this point that he's got to have if he's going to win.
LEHRER: Frank. in our 'pre-game' show you said that really the key thing out of this would be who came over as 'the most presidential.' How did you score that? Do you have a complicated point system on the 'presidential' thing?
MANKIEWICZ: No. I don't have a point system. I think they both looked pretty good on that score. And therefore, I would agree with the people who think that probably Governor Reagan was helped by it, because he was there, as they say, head-to-head with the president, the two of them just about even, and I would think that probably helps him. If people had any doubts about his ability to compete, they're probably resolved. So it goes to other intangible questions, and I think the election now is going to be decided, not by people's impression of this debate, but by the turnout. And I'm not sure that a lot of people were motivated to vote by this debate who had not previously decided they were going to vote.
LEHRER: You don't think it was that dramatic?
MANKIEWICZ: I don't think it was dramatic at all. I think they played for the tie, and I think they got it. And I think, you know, next week we'll all know whether we're making any sense or not. But I thought that President Carter probably could have used a little more drama tonight.
LEHRER: Yeah. Do you agree with that John? Do you think that the debate taken as an event - 90 minutes of television - do you think that's gonna cause people to vote by a larger percentage than they would have otherwise?
DEARDOURFF: Jim, there was a very interesting comment in one of the New York papers this afternoon. And that was that it was likely that more people would watch the debate tonight than would vote next Tuesday. I don't think I saw much tonight that would indicate to me that people are going to be racing to see who can get there first next Tuesday. On the other hand, that may be too cynical a comment. I thought both of these men did a good job tonight. I don't think either of them embarrassed themselves in any way. They were professional, they were, both of them I thought in their own way com-petent on the issues. I did have the feeling, as I've had many times - and obviously I'm a partisan here - I had the feeling that President Carter again did not come through with any warmth. He is a tight-lipped, tense kind of man, and I think that on television doesn't play as well as the kind of warm, generous, somewhat relaxed style of Reagan.
LEHRER: I see. Robin?
MacNEIL: Yeah, John Stacks, back to you. Do you think this is going to give either candidate any momentum; it's going to cause a movement one way or the other?
STACKS: No, I don't. I think Frank made a good point, and that is Carter's biggest problem is to bring in the traditional Democrats, bring in the Kennedy Democrats, bring in the people who voted for him in '76 who are holding back. And I don't think he was inspirational enough in that sense. If this debate, being the biggest event of the campaign, doesn't produce drama and doesn't produce turnout, that by definition hurts the Democrat. And in that sense, perhaps Carter missed an opportunity.
MacNEIL: John Emmerich, you seem to think the president did quite well. Do you disagree with John Stacks? Do you think some of the traditional Democrats are going to start coming out as a result of tonight?
EMMERICH: I don't know. Certainly the debate produced no surprises that I could see. Both the president and Governor Reagan kind of played their expected roles. But it seems to me that we're overlooking the age factor. Because it seemed to me that Governor Reagan showed that he is a man 69 years old, not in the prime of life. And President Carter looked younger- and I think he sounded younger.
MacNEIL: You mentioned that before. Let's just go around the others. Does anybody else agree with John Emmerich on this, that the age factor showed up? Do you, John Deardourif?
DEARDOURFF: I didn't see it, but of course, you know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there. I'm not-
MacNEIL: Did you. Mr. Reynolds?
REYNOLDS: Yeah, I think I saw it toward the end. I think he began to look fatigued a little.
MacNEIL: What did you think, Mr. McCormally?
McCORMALLY: Strangely enough, the very first note I made on my paper here at the start of the debate was 'Reagan looks tired.' He did. The very opening question it seemed to me his face was sagging, and he looked a little tired. I have not in the past thought the age factor was all that important, but I think John makes a good point.
MacNEIL: Let's continue around on whether this is going to give either of them any momentum. Do you think, among voters in Maine, this is going to actually cause any renewed interest in one candidate or the other?
REYNOLDS: No. I don't think so, Robin.
MacNEIL: Do you in Iowa, Mr. McCormally?
MCCORMALLY: I have to agree. I think there is some momentum going on right now. I think it's going to be a larger vote than most of us so-called professionals have been predicting-
MacNEIL: Largely unaffected by tonight-
MCCORMALLY: Yeah. But not hurt by tonight, either.
MacNEIL: You thought this generally helped Reagan. Do you think it's going to create any momentum in his way?
DEARDOURFF: I think it gives him a little boost tonight, yes.
MacNEIL: And Frank Mankiewicz, do you think it's going to create some movement?
MANKIEWICZ: I think that however the thing stands now is probably the way it's gonna come out a week from now. I think it will be that close. I don't see any movement coming as a result of this debate. I think the age issue may have been subliminally present, or perhaps even liminally. I agree with those who said that that might have crossed people's minds as they watched this debate. But on the other hand, there was a kind of friendliness and relaxed quality to Governor Reagan that might have overcome that. I just think neither side really rallied anybody significantly, and so I would say that that.undecided vote is probably going to stay away from the polls and the race is going to be decided pretty much the way the pollsters say it is today.
MacNEIL: Okay. We were all throwing the word 'decisive' around. This event tonight could be, or was going to be, the decisive moment in the campaign. Do you now think it was, John Deardourff?
DEARDOURFF: Well, I don't recall suggesting that, but- No. I don't think this was decisive. As I say, I think it helped Governor Reagan slightly. We are one week away from an election, and there are three or four big news events which could develop in this next week which might wipe out an awful lot of even the memory of this debate.
MacNEIL: Yeah. Does anybody- Paul Reynolds, do you think this has been, as it turns out, a decisive-
REYNOLDS: No, I don't think it's been decisive. But I do think- One important point, I think, that hasn't been made. I think Reagan very successfully conveyed a philosophy of government which I don't think Carter was able to do during his response. And I think that is in Reagan's favor.
MacNEIL: Do you think that it was decisive, Mr. McCormally?
MCCORMALLY: No, I said at the outset, you remember, I didn't think it was going to be. If I may comment on Mr. Reynolds, I agree with him. I think Reagan did a great job, in that final bit about 'ask yourself are you better off and make your decision how you're gonna go'- But I thought Carter also, in his summary he stressed judgment. It seems to me in place of a philosophy of government, he's concentrating on the question of judg-ment, and trying to sell the idea he is a man of judgment and Reagan is not.
MacNEIL: John Stacks, decisive, the debate?
STACKS: I think not. Again, it's a standoff like the polls suggest. Neither man seized the moment. I think we just kind of drift along to next Tuesday.
MacNEIL: Let me ask this finally. Is it conceivable that these two men have so neutralized each other like this that they might have helped Mr. Anderson and encouraged some voters who might have been wondering what to do? Do you think, John Deardourff, that that's at all likely?
MacNEIL: No? Anybody think so? Paul Reynolds, no? John McCormally? John Stacks?
STACKS: I'd venture just a flyer that it might have added two points to the final Anderson total.
MacNEIL: Spell that out. How?
STACKS: Well, in the sense that both Carter and Reagan were essentially negative as they've been -- One of the things this did, I think, was to crystalize the sort of negative tone of the whole campaign. It's not inconceivable to me that people wound up after 90 minutes of this tonight saying. 'Well, I just might as well vote for Anderson as a protest.'
MacNEIL: John Emmerich, do you agree with that?
EMMERICH: No, I don't think I would say that, because I'm a little more positive about the whole debate. They both were playing defensive ball, it seems to me, and so they didn't score any spectacular touchdowns. But, at the same time, they both came across as competent people, who know what they are talking about and who have a philosophy of government. So I would say that Anderson was not helped at all.
MacNEIL: Thank you. We have to leave it there. Thank all of you very much for joining us in Washington and New York this evening. Good night. Jim.
LEHRER: Good night. Robin.
MacNEIL: That concludes this special edition of the MacNeil/Lehrer Report.
Jim Lehrer and I will be back at our regular program time tomorrow evening.
Thank you for watching. I'm Robert MacNeil. Good night.
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