This study extends politeness theory to political debates arguing that an important element of political leadership resides in a candidate's ability to manage political image through politeness strategies in a debate. Utilizing Brown and Levinson's politeness theory as a theoretical base, the 1992 vice presidential and presidential debates were examined to determine if candidates used different politeness strategies. The transcripts of the 1992 debates were coded using Kline's operationalization of Brown and Levinson's theory. The analysis revealed differences in face saving strategies in the debates. Implications for the importance of debates as campaign events, the impact of politeness strategies on debate discourse, and the impact of format on issue development are considered.