'Unlike Any Other Presidential Debate in History': Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the 1992 Richmond Town Hall Debate

October 18, 2012
University of Richmond, Virginia


In October of 1992, President George H.W. Bush and presidential hopefuls Bill Clinton and Ross Perot took to the stage at University of Richmond’s Robins Center for a debate that would change the course of electoral politics in America. As the first-ever presidential debate in a town hall format, the innovative and memorable event brought presidential candidates closer to voters, but also complicated the way American political messages are communicated.

In October of 2012, two days after President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney engaged in their own town hall debate at Hofstra University, NCA cosponsored, with the Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of Richmond, a discussion with debate experts, political communication specialists, and some of the most well-known participants in the 1992 debate to discuss and reflect on what made the 1992 Richmond debate so influential. The event occurred Thursday, October 18 at 5:00 pm in the Tyler Hanes Commons on the University of Richmond campus.

Townhall Debate: 1992 Richmond Debate Townhall Debate: Richmond Debate Townhall Debate: 1992 Marisa Hall  


  • Timothy Barney, Department of Rhetoric & Communication Studies, University of Richmond


  • Diana B. Carlin, associate vice president for graduate education, St. Louis University
  • Jennifer McClellan, Virginia House of Delegates, 71st District
  • Mitchell McKinney, associate professor and director of graduate studies, Department of Communication, University of Missouri
  • Carole Simpson, broadcast journalist, moderator of the 1992 Richmond presidential debate
  • Marisa (Hall) Summers, (above, right) 1992 Town Hall Debate participant and questioner
  • Denton Walthall, 1992 Town Hall Debate participant and questioner