There's been a lot of talk about debate question topics -- the Wonkblog gang yesterday did a nice item about the five most important issues not raised in the debates (housing, Europe, climate, Fed/SCOTUS appointments, campaign finance; I think the first four are good choices). I was wondering in particular about climate, and started thinking about 1996: after the failure of Bill Clinton's health care reform plan, did health care get as little attention that year as climate did after the demise of cap-and-trade?
And...nope. Turns out that in the first presidential debate there was a general question about health care, and in the second there was one general question and then a second one about managed care. And that's not to mention that Medicare was perhaps the most talked about topic over the debates that year.
So, basically, I'll toss in a negative finding for those who were concerned about this: there is no historical pattern in which a failed presidential initiative on a major issue leads to that issue disappearing from the issue agenda, at least as measured by presidential debate topics.
Now, that said, I pretty much liked the format this year which allowed the candidates to go back and forth during a block of time devoted to discussion topics. It meant fewer topics covered, I think, but more time for them to talk. And I don't really care much if any particular issue, no matter how important, isn't included, although from the point of view of critiquing the moderators I suppose I'm for more important rather than less important issues. But at any rate, I suspected that the absence of climate in the debates this year might have to do with the history of the last four years, and it turns out my guess wasn't supported by the evidence.