Remember Joe the plumber? His story was a product of a presidential debate between candidates Barack Obama and John McCain four years ago.
He turned out not to be a game changer for McCain, who raised Joe as an example of what McCain said were Obama's wealth-distribution economic proposals.
But other historic debate moments have been seen as responsible for turning the tide for one presidential candidate or another.
Just the fact of his appearance on live television was seen as disastrous for Richard Nixon in his debate opposite the telegenic John F. Kennedy in 1960.
It took years for another candidate to get up the courage to go in front of a live audience of millions in a debate situation. That came when Gerald Ford faced Jimmy Carter in 1976. Ford's gamble backfired when he made the statement, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" -- a comment pundits said may have cost him the election.
The list of gaffes and slipups since then is long, so candidates come prepared with expert-vetted talking points, rehearsed personal stories and anecdotes like that involving the wrench-packing Joe.
We can expect a practiced verbal exchange Wednesday night when President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney face off at the University of Denver in front of an audience estimated at 50 million.
But occasionally in such debates, an adlibbed zinger will deal at least a momentary glance, such as the time Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen told his opponent Dan Quayle, who had compared his own public service to that of President Kennedy: "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Let's face it, those are the moments we'll be watching for.
Just as McCain did in 2008, Romney has lauded Obama for a gift of oratory. Obama has been in this most sizzling of hot seats -- a live presidential debate -- on several occasions. It's Romney's first time out in exactly this scenario.
A lot is at stake.
In these last weeks leading up to the election, we've asked if you're better off than you were four years ago and whether a presidential contest can turn on one leak of a videotape.
This time we want to know who will face down the critical eye of the camera and win in the minds of the public on Wednesday? What does Maryland think? Tell us in comments.
The first of three debates leading up to the election will be on domestic policy. For a full schedule and live streaming, click here. Looking for a debate-watching party?