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Our Favorite Vices: The Best Vice Presidential Debate Moments

Vice presidential candidates Dan Quayle (Left), James Stockdale (Center) and Al Gore face off on Oct. 13, 1992, in Atlanta, Ga. Photo by Bob Pearson/AFP/Getty Images

Whether debates matter or not is something political scientists and pundits can argue about some other time. Thursday is vice presidential debate day and we are here to celebrate. Vice presidential nominees are usually the designated attack dogs of the campaigns and over the years their debates have provided no shortage of political carnage. In honor of this quadrennial event, we have put together some of our favorite debate moments from past meetings of the running mates.



Then a little known governor, Sarah Palin exploded onto the national stage. After being selected by John McCain just before the Republican National Convention, Palin set the campaign trail ablaze with her unique brand of politics. Palin had a few early stumbles and when Oct. 2 came around, she needed a good night opposite Joe Biden, then a Democratic Senator representing Delaware.

After an opening sequence seemingly scripted by Lorne Michaels, Palin settled in and delivered a solid performance. For us though, it was all about ‘the wink.’


No one has ever called Dick Cheney soft and cuddly. But George W. Bush’s former vice president sure did know how to deliver a scathing blow to his up-and-coming challenger John Edwards when the two met onstage in 2004. This was our favorite exchange between the two.


There is a special place in American politics for retired Navy Adm. James Stockdale. Not only was he a participant in the only three-person vice presidential debate, in 1992, but Ross Perot’s running mate may be the only politician to lose a debate after uttering only two lines. They were two pretty good lines though.

If Stockdale’s opening lines didn’t sink him. This exchange with moderator Hal Bruno surely did.


In the political hall of fame, there is a permanent wing devoted to Lloyd Bentsen. Not for his service in Congress or for running alongside Michael Dukakis in 1988. Bentsen’s induction was based on one, earth-moving exchange with Dan Quayle when George H. W. Bush’s ticket mate made the fateful decision to compare himself to John F. Kennedy.


Geraldine Ferraro broke through the glass ceiling when Walter Mondale selected her as his vice presidential nominee in 1984. And when she stepped onto the stage with then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1984, Ferraro showed anything but a glass jaw when Bush puffed out his chest while discussing foreign policy.


The first-ever vice presidential debate was held in 1976 between Bob Dole and Walter Mondale. Because it was the first, Dole should be rightly credited with being the first vice presidential nominee to completely dismiss a moderator’s question and veer off on his own, strange tangent.

Mondale followed Dole’s monologue with the first zinger in VP debate history saying, “I think Senator Dole has richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man.”

Will Thursday night’s debate add any highlights to our collection? Watch with us and find out.

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