Saturday, October 09, 2004

the morning after

Last night's debate was interesting. Some of the questions were very good (I, for one, don't care if they are partisan-charged questions or not--your representatives have to be able to answer those types of questions as well as "softballs"), and some of the answers were pretty good. From a strictly "performance" standpoint, the President was much better last night than last week and Kerry turned in another solid effort. There, again, were times that I wish the President would have attacked an exposed Kerry position a little more forcefully (more on that later), but at least he seemed more Presidential yesterday. Kerry's substance did not impress me. And I don't have the information handy to expose some of the key talking points that will come out in the next week, but from reading Hugh Hewitt, I think there is another few golden tid-bits from last night to serve as fodder for the GOP.

About that attacking Kerry stuff from above: I read somewhere today that maybe the President isn't forceful in retorting Kerry in these debates because it isn't in his nature to be mean or deprecating (to someone other than himself, that is). And while that's well and good, it doesn't play well in the debate forum. He who gets the last word has the advantage in leaving an indelible mark on the topic of discussion--Kerry took advantage of that a couple times last night whereas the President did not. By and large, I thought Bush did fine in the 2 minute/90 second exchanges, but Kerry "won" almost every extension. And that is a powerful front to control in these forums.

And I think these forums have an added importance this year. IF there truly are undecideds out there still, they are paying attention to this election simply because it is such an important election and the two leaders are such different people. I don't care what happened in past presidential campaigns as far as how the debates played into the result: I think THIS YEAR the debates will have some say in the eventual outcome. To that end, Kerry has got to like what he's done in his two chances, and I see no reason to doubt that he will do well next week, too. Incorporating that information into the canvas of the election, the biggest question to me is: will his performance in the debates be enough to counter Bush's lead of 12 days ago?

But back to last night: I think the debate was a draw--possibly slightly in favor of Kerry. I think that the most important aspect of the debate, that being the "legs" of the discussions last night, has the potential to favor Bush. As for the effect on the electorate (like I have any clue): my guess is that the only "firming up" was done by Kerry last night. Bush didn't lose anybody, but the only "movement" he will inspire is a voter that could have been considered "undecided" before the debates going back into the undecided column after last night (no net gain for W); Kerry's performance might have taken some other pre-debate "undecideds" and put them permanently in his camp (a net gain).

I think the popular vote is going to be close. Here's to hoping that the swing states found Bush's message--especially on the environment, the culture of life, and the economy--to their liking.


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