No. of Recommendations: 12
Through the wonder of the internet, we can go back to another incumbent President who was in the midst of an economic recovery, who was clearly ahead in the polls, and who totally fumbled his first debate:

Ronald Reagan, First debate 1984.

Here is the first question, where Reagan is unable to answer a simple question about the growing deficit under his Administration. His answer is rambling and ineffective.

And his concluding remarks, where he appears terribly confused:

Of course, Walter Mondale had a great deal of momentum heading out of this debate and went on to win the election.
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