Presidential debates are much more than just 90-minute events. They are followed by media analysis and interpretation, including interviews with experts, the discussion of instant polls, the replaying of highlights, and the commentary of candidates' spokespeople. It is a complicated mix to say the least. We seek to examine these competing influences for the final 2004 presidential debate with a unique and powerful design: a controlled experiment, a public opinion survey, and a content analysis of the debate and the news media's “instant analysis” immediately following the debate. Our findings, for example, suggest that citizens were influenced by the arguments presented directly by the candidates during the debate as well as by the media's instant analyses of the candidates' debate performance. Because we are able to take a closer look at this complicated campaign event, we are able to tell a more compelling and nuanced story about the effects of debates than previously told.