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50 years after Nixon v. Kennedy, a new kind of political debate

By Steve Grove

Head of News And Politics, YouTube

It was 50 years ago today that then-Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kennedy took on then-Vice President Richard Nixon in the first-ever general election presidential debate. The debate was a turning point not only for the 1960 election, but also for U.S. politics: an estimated 80 million people tuned in, and the debate set a new precedent for the use of television as a political communications tool. To celebrate the anniversary, we’ve partnered with the Kennedy Presidential Library to post the full, unabridged Nixon/Kennedy debate to YouTube.

The web, of course, is the latest communications platform to change the way debates are run. In the last presidential election cycle, we partnered with CNN on the CNN/YouTube debates -- which gave everyone a chance to ask a question of presidential candidates -- and we’ve since launched Google Moderator, which allows citizens to submit and vote on questions presented to public officials on YouTube. For the 2010 midterm elections, we’re partnering with news agencies across the country for a series of debates. Here are a few of them that we’re launching today:

  • Nevada: we’re partnering with the Nevada Broadcasters Association for a Senate debate on October 14 between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle. Submit your questions here.
  • Iowa: we’re working with the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television for the October 21 gubernatorial debate between Governor Chet Culver and challenger Terry Branstad. Submit your questions here.
  • Colorado: we’re partnering with KUSA 9 News and the Denver Post for a gubernatorial debate between Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and American Constution Party candidate Tom Tancredo on October 13. Submit your questions here.
  • Connecticut: we're teaming up with WTNH and the Day of New London for a Senate debate between Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Richard Blumenthal, as well as a Gubernatorial debate between Tom Foley and Dan Malloy. Submit your questions for the Senate race here, and the Gubernatorial here.
  • 10questions: We’ve also partnered with, who used the Google Moderator API to build a platform for a web debates series across the country, in which candidates will submit their answers to the top-voted questions via YouTube videos. You’ll also see this platform in action in TV debates in both California and Georgia in the coming weeks.

More open, engaging political debates benefit voters, candidates, news agencies, and the political process. If you're a broadcaster, blogger, campaign or citizen looking to hold a debate in your city or state, check out our debate landing page for easy instructions on how to use Google Moderator to solicit and broadcast questions from voters via YouTube.