Jimmy Carter's first-debate nervousness had vanished. Gerald Ford's second-debate foot-in-mouth was cured. Both candidates were more poised, presidential and restrained than before—in fact, at times they sounded downright angelic. Both avoided the kind of fatal gaffe that inspires a politician's nightmares. The verbal slips were slight. Old Football Player Ford began to predict improved economic prospects for "the fifth quarter" and quickly checked himself. Carter, often accused of changing his mind, said he would select Supreme Court Justices "who would most accurately reflect my own basic political philosophy as best I could determine it."

Overall, Ford was pushed more often...

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