2012 Presidential Debates: Drinking Games That Make Politics Palatable

on October 01 2012 5:29 PM
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GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Reuters

It’s not easy suffering through the zingers, rhetoric and half-truths of a typical presidential debate, but the good news is, you don’t have to do it sober.

The first debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney kicks off on Wednesday, and to celebrate the historic face-off, several websites are rolling out drinking games to keep your debate parties lively. The rules are simple: Players pick a side and drink accordingly whenever their candidate says one of several predetermined buzzy phrases (and of course each game comes with a stern warning to drink responsibly).

One of the best games out there comes from the Washington, D.C., news website ClotureClub.com. The site requires Team Obama to take a drink every time the president mentions “the auto bailout,” “killing Osama Bin Laden,” “the 47 percent,” and “we’re better off than we were four years ago.” On the Romney said, players must drink each time the Governor says “Ronald Reagan,” “champion for small business,” “I’m for the 100 percent,” and “we’re not better off than we were four years ago.” Both sides have to drink if their candidates thank the troops.

For hardcore drinkers, the drinking game from DebateDrinking.com might be more your speed. With a set of much more commonly used buzzwords, the game is likely to be a high scorer for both sides. Drinking terms include “Bain,” “inherited,” “invest” and “Clinton” for Obama and “unemployment,” “job creators,” “private sector” and “Reagan” for Romney. DebateDrinking also has a Biden/Ryan drinking game in the pipeline, set to debut sometime before the vice presidential candidates face off on Oct. 11.  

For a possible window into what’s to come, the New York Times has assembled an infographic measuring some of the buzzwords most frequently used at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. And many of the terms match up with the games.  “Unemployment,” for instance, was used 17 times at the RNC, suggesting that anyone who plays the DebateDrinking game better do so on a full stomach. 

Drinking games are thought to have originated in ancient Greece with games such as Kottabos, which involved flinging wine from cups at certain targets. Presidential debate drinking games have been making the rounds online since at least 2004, when President George W. Bush faced off against Sen. John Kerry. Hot buzzwords at that time included “terrorism,” “Halliburton,” “Saddam Hussein” and “Sept. 11.”

Despite the hype surrounding presidential debates, research shows that they rarely have enough of an impact to sway a presidential election. A 2008 Gallup study revealed that, between 1960 and 2004, presidential debates made a significant difference in only two elections. One was in 1960 -- the first televised debate in history -- when a young JFK came off so much more cool and at ease than his sweaty opponent, Richard Nixon. The second time was in 2000, when Al Gore huffed and sighed his way through his debates with a more cordial George W. Bush.  

The Oct. 3 debate between Obama and Romney will take place at the University of Denver and will be moderated by the veteran moderator Jim Lehrer. It’s one of four debates scheduled for the coming months.