The Washington Post

The first presidential debate explained — in 6 charts

The moment we have all been waiting for is here -- finally!

President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will debate one another tonight in Denver, a set-to that is being cast as a decisive moment in the race. 

We are flooding the zone with debate coverage -- live tweeting! Wonk|Fix! 10 most memorable debate moments! -- but in the long dark tea time of the soul between now and the start of the debate at 9 pm eastern, there's not much to do but speculate and wonder. Of course, that's what we do best.

We've spent the last few days gathering  -- and even making! -- some cool/helpful charts that help explain what people expect out of the debate tonight and the likely effect it will have (or won't have) on the race.  We culled that list to six. They are below. Have a chart, graph or infographic on the debates we should add? Send us a link at chris DOT cillizza AT wpost DOT com and we will add it!

1. People think President Obama is going to win the debates.

2.  Debates have, historically, done little to change immediate dynamic of the race.

3. Debates have also done little to change the final result of a race -- although they do tend to have a bit of margin-slimming impact on the frontrunner.

4. Lots and lots of people watch the debates.  In 2008, 52 million people watched the first debate between then Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. (Almost 70 million people watched the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.)

5. Fewer people watch the debates than once did.

6. The older you are, the more likely you are to watch the debate.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Post's Philip Bump says ...
Since he proclaimed that he'd win New Hampshire last summer, Bernie Sanders has seen a swing of about 50 points in his direction. Impressive. But not as impressive as the guy on the other side of the political aisle. Donald Trump has led the Republican field in New Hampshire for almost 200 days, and has held a lead in 51 straight live-caller polls -- every poll stretching back to last July.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See live results from N.H.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.