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Trail Mix: Candidates, leave the iPad at home!

  • History's first debate zinger
  • More time, but fewer words
No electronic devices like iPads are allowed in the debates.

Want to know what's popping in campaign news? Meet our column "Trail Mix" -- your guide to the fun, the quirky, and, oh yeah, the news from the 2012 campaign.

Candidates: Keep your iPads at home

They’re not exactly on the level of reality TV, but this year’s debates also aren’t exactly unscripted. As they have for years, the rules for this year’s three presidential debates and one VP debate have been hammered out, and agreed to in writing, by both campaigns. What kind of rules? Well, here’s a sample from the 21-page Memorandum of Understanding obtained by Time Magazine:

-- “No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by any candidate, including portable electronic devices.”

-- “No candidate may reference or cite any specific individual sitting in the debate audience (other than family members)."

-- “The candidates may take notes during the debate on the size, color and type of blank paper each prefers and using the type of pen or pencil each prefers."

-- “No candidate shall be permitted to use risers or any other device to create an impression of elevated height.”

And finally, the moderator is tasked to “use any reasonable method to ensure that the agreed-upon format is followed by the candidates and the audience” – which does make you wonder what, exactly, would be considered “reasonable.”

The first recorded zinger – and other debate trivia

By now -- the third presidential debate -- you’ve probably heard all you want to about what to look for in the candidates’ performances and what voters want to hear from them. So how about some fun debate trivia (or what passes for fun in the hilarious world of presidential debates), courtesy of CNN:

-- The first-ever zinger? In 1858, Abraham Lincoln called Lincoln Douglas’ policy on slavery “as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.”

-- President Ronald Reagan was the first candidate to ask the now standard question, “Are you better off now than four years ago?” He pulled the line on Jimmy Carter at the end of a debate in 1980 – and went on, of course, to win the election.

-- The first televised presidential debate was in October 1960, made famous by the difference in appearance between the older Richard Nixon and the youthful John F. Kennedy. Those who watched on TV thought Kennedy won, but those who listened to it on radio thought it was a tie or that Nixon had won.

More time – but fewer words

After the last debate, some Mitt Romney supporters cried foul that President Obama got an additional three minutes or so of talk time. But it turns out that Romney actually got more of his views out to voters: He spoke 478 more words than Obama (7,984 to 7,506).

The same thing happened during the debate in Denver, Colorado, where Obama, known for pausing while he speaks, (see any SNL sketch) spoke for nearly five minutes more than Romney but got in 508 fewer words.

So when you’re bored tonight, keep a stopwatch in one hand and start counting words with your other!

Must Reads:

Slate: Dating somebody of the opposite party

Politico: Ten nastiest races for the U.S. House

BuzzFeed: Twelve reasons to care about the Supreme Court

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Trail Mix: What you need to know today
Trail Mix | See all 30 items Trail Mix: What you need to know today