Before tomorrow night’s opening presidential debate, look back at some of the defining election clashes. 

These are the moments that we remember.

It doesn’t matter what policy issues President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney hit upon Wednesday night during the first presidential debate. It doesn’t even matter if either candidate uses the debate stage in Denver, Colo., to put forth bold, new plans for our country. The moments that will live on from that 90 minutes in the Mile High City will be the unscripted ones—they will live on YouTube mere minutes after they occur.

The debates have always been remembered for those off-the-cuff remarks, like the ones seen here. But this round of debates between Obama and Romney may have more of those moments than ever. That’s because we are of the YouTube era of politics. Just look at what happened to Gov. Rick Perry late last year, when he couldn’t remember the three agencies he would cut if elected president. His “oops” moment even became the basis of one of Perry’s own ads.

And the magnifying glass will be even sharper this time, as these are mostly likely going to be some of the most watched and scrutinized events of the 2012 race. But gaffs and mistakes are not the only things that can emerge from a debate night. Just look at the six memorable moments from past debates.

1) Ronald Reagan

One only has to look at Ronald Reagan to see a debate master at work. In 1984, when he was running for reelection against Walter Mondale, the president’s age was a matter of concern, as he was the oldest man to ever hold the office. When it came up during a debate, the quick witted Reagan turned the question around and said he would let his competitor’s “age and inexpressive” become an issue.

2) Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle

Four years later, Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle were battling it out for the number two spot. During one debate, Quayle, George H. W. Bush’s vice presidential candidate, said he had as much experience as John F. Kennedy. Even if the remark was true, it was not welcomed by Bentsen, a longtime Democratic senator.

3) Al Gore and George W. Bush

Sometimes, it’s not even a statement that is remembered, but a gesture. When Al Gore approached George W. Bush during a 2000 debate and the next president just nodded at the the Democratic candidate.

4) John Kerry

Four years later, Bush was considerably less calm when going up against Sen. John Kerry. When Kerry suggested that Bush had “gone alone” into Iraq, the president got noticeably agitated.

5) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

During the heated 2008 Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton and Obama were constantly at each other in public appearances and during debates. When the question of Clinton’s likability came up, Obama said off-handedly, “you’re likable enough.” That became the moment most people remembered.

6) Mitt Romney 

Perry was talking about Romney’s signature healthcare plan, but no one remembers that. What they remember is that Romney bet the Texas governor $10,000 that he was wrong. The moment, some said, showed that Romney was out-of-touch, an issue that persists today.

Who knows what moments from Wednesday night will be going viral on Thursday morning.

Photo via YouTube

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