The Presidential Debate Drinking Game

Before it's over, the contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will drive us to drink. Here's how to get there first.

There is absolutely no reason we should have a presidential debate tonight, not one. Almost everybody in the country knows who they’re voting for by now, and if they don’t it’s probably because they too starkly resemble SNL’s “Undecided Voters” sketch from a few weeks ago. The candidates have declared their positions already; it’s highly unlikely we’ll learn anything new about President Obama or Mitt Romney tonight that we didn’t already know. All we’ll see is how well they can perform in front of a live audience. It’s a test of job readiness more suited to an improv comedy group than for being Leader of the Free World.

It’s a reality show. And what’s the best way to enjoy a reality show? With a drinking game, of course.

There are three moving parts to any debate in 2012: There’s the candidates themselves. There’s the media. And there’s Twitter. You can play each element as its own separate drinking game, or combine them—but only at the risk of alcohol poisoning. So maybe just choose one. Here we go:


They’re the reason that we’re all here, right? By now, we’re all used to their catchphrases and tics, so let’s put them to good use. Any time…

  • Obama makes that “uhhhhhhhhhhh” sound before starting a sentence. (Watch Jay Pharoah’s impression of Obama if you don’t know what I’m talking about.): Sip.
  • Romney laughs awkwardly. (Which means, pretty much any time Romney laughs.): Sip.
  • Obama mentions George W. Bush: Shot.
  • Romney mentions Jimmy Carter: Shot.
  • Obama uses one of the following phrases: “Middle class,” “wealthy,” “fair share,” “Neil Armstrong,” “Sasha and Malia,” “Caymans”: Shot.
  • Romney uses one of the following phrases: “Job creators,” “job-killing,” “class warfare,” “Olympics,” “Obamacare,” “Kenya”: Shot.*
  • Obama sings part of an Al Green song: Chug.
  • Romney mentions George W. Bush: Chug.
  • Either candidate makes a joke about the other’s treatment of dogs: Car bomb.


I can’t emphasize this enough: You should not watch the debate on a cable channel. Go to C-Span. Or find a website that’s streaming the live feed without commentary. The more you can skip all the spin and just view the debate on its own, unfiltered merits, the better.

On the other hand, if you have to watch TV, come prepared. Anytime:

  • Any media person mentions “the expectations game” before the debate, or “the spin room” afterward: Shot.
  • Moderator Jim Lehrer gets a sour look on his face: Sip.
  • Chris Matthews criticizes Romney while Brian Williams looks on uncomfortably: Shot.
  • Wolf Blitzer turns to some virtual piece of machinery—a hologram, a video board, a green screen—to make a mundane point: Shot.
  • You find yourself missing Keith Olbermann: Go to bed. Stop drinking. Get some rest.
  • Someone on Fox News says anything positive about the president’s performance: Immediately chug everything in the house.
  • David Brooks gives Mitt Romney a compliment that’s really an insult: Sip.
  • Every time you wonder who Mark Shields is: Sip.
  • Steve Inskeep brings another commentator in to discuss things: Have some tea. You’re listening to NPR.


Let’s face it: No live televised event is complete without real-time commentary on Twitter. The debates will be no exception. Given the immoderate nature of social networking, you’ll simply have to take a shot every time someone in your feed:

  • Complains about all the people Tweeting about the debate.
  • Complains about the people complaining about the people Tweeting about the debate.
  • Compares the debate to other people Tweeting about sports or Mad Men.
  • Retweets Rob Delaney, Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, or posts a picture from George Takei’s Facebook feed.
  • Makes you so angry you un-follow them.
  • You’re unfollowed by somebody angered by your political tweets.
  • BONUS: If somebody says: “Wow, that debate really changed my mind! I was going to vote for (candidate name,) but now I might vote for (candidate name),” well, throw all the alcohol out. A miracle has happened, Jesus is coming back to Earth, and you’d better get ready. (Just kidding! That will never, ever happen.)

There’s four more weeks until the election. We’re all going to want to get drunk before it’s over.

Note: Philly Post editors will be playing this game tonight, so Joel Mathis is our designated live-tweeter during the debate. Follow @ThePhillyPost from 8:45 to 10:45 p.m. for his commentary and sound drinking advice.