Unusual jugate with both major candidates.
On September 23, President Gerald Ford performed well in what was the first televised presidential debate since 1960. Polls taken after the debate showed that most viewers felt that Ford was the winner. Carter was also hurt by Ford's charges that he lacked the necessary experience to be an effective national leader, and that Carter was vague on many issues. Carter pledged to end desegregation busing.
However, Ford committed a costly blunder that halted his momentum. During the second presidential debate on October 6, Ford stumbled when he asserted that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." He added that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union," and made the same claim with regards to Yugoslavia and Romania. Ford refused to retract his statement for almost a week after the debate. Neo-conservatives, who were becoming increasingly anti-Soviet, were appalled. Combined with Carter's pledge of a pardon for all Vietnam War opponents and refugees, Ford's surge stalled and Carter was able to maintain a slight lead in the polls and eventually won by a narrow margin.
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