‘Who am I? Why am I here?’ A look back at memorable vice presidential debate moments

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge & Sherisse Pham
Power Players

Spinners and Winners

The sole vice presidential debate of 2012 is tomorrow night, and with presidential polls showing the race tightening, the heat is on both Vice President Joe Biden, and Congressman Paul Ryan to perform. But how much do vice presidential debates influence the final outcome?

The first vice presidential debate was only 36 years ago. President Ford's running mate Bob Dole faced off against Jimmy Carter's VP pick Walter Mondale. It was the first VP debate and the first VP debate gaffe, when World War II hero Bob Dole seemed to imply that the all the American wars of the 20th century, even the struggle to defeat Nazi Germany, were partisan exercises.

"It's not a very good issue any more than the war in Vietnam would be, or World War II or World War I or the war in Korea - all Democrat wars, all in this century," said Dole. "I figured it up the other day. If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit."

"I think Senator Dole has richly earned his reputation as a hatchet man tonight," replied Mondale. Mondale won that exchange and ultimately the vice presidency.

In 1988, Dan Quayle squared off against Lloyd Bentsen, and insisted he had plenty of experience to be vice president.

"I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency," said Quayle.

"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy," said Bentsen, in what has become one of the most memorable debate comebacks in recent history. But it did not matter, the Bush-Quayle ticket won in an electoral landslide

In the first three-way vice presidential debate in 1992, the most memorable lines of the debate came from Ross Perot's running mate - Admiral James Stockdale.

"Who am I? Why am I here?" asked the admiral in his opening remarks, hip to the fact that voters were focused on the match-up between the Republican and Democratic tickets.

"I would like to get in -- I feel like I'm an observer at a ping pong game," he said, when moderator Hal Bruno, of ABC News, gave him a chance to jump back into the debate after nearly five minutes had passed without him saying anything.

The most-watched vice presidential debate was just four years ago, when Sarah Palin debated Joe Biden. It was generally seen as one of Palin's best performances of the campaign.

Check out more highlight's from this week's Spinners and Winners. And tune into ABCNews.com and Yahoo.com on Thursday for live streaming coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate moderated by ABC News' Martha Raddatz in Danville, Ky. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon. Full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.