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Memorable moments of political theater in presidential debates

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In theory, presidential debates are meant to educate the public on the most important issues facing the country and how candidates would approach them.

In reality, presidential debates are often little more than political theater, and largely an opportunity for candidates to show how well they can handle the spotlight and how good they are on their feet.

A presidential candidate’s charisma often far outweighs his or her knowledge of policy when it comes to performing well in a debate.

Candidates who can speak in soundbites tend to perform better than those who can bloviate about complex topics.

To put it another way, style typically matters more than substance in debates.

President Donald Trump repeatedly proved that by wiping the floor with his opponents in presidential debates during the 2016 campaign season. He tapped into his skill as an entertainer and focused more on making the audience laugh with insults and quips than offering in-depth takes on the issues.

This is not to say presidential debates are not consequential, though their overall impact on elections can be difficult to measure.

Here are some of the biggest moments in the history of presidential debates:

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