Presidential debates are usually held in the last couple months of the election cycle, after the political parties have nominated their candidates. The candidates meet in a large hall, often at a university, before an audience of citizens and journalists who often pose questions for the candidates to answer. The topics discussed in the debate are often the most controversial issues of the time, and some have said that performance at the debates are a key influence in who will win the election.
The nation's first-ever televised presidential debate was held in 1960, between Republican Vice President Richard Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy, D-Mass. The event drew more than 66 million viewers out of a population of 179 million, making it one of the most-watched broadcasts in U.S. television history. From then, a number of debates between presidential candidates and their running mates have been televised, with the event now a mainstay in the election process. The first debate between current Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain took place on Sept. 26, with an estimated 65 million Americans watching.