My quick take on the presidential debate (the first that I really paid a lot of attention to (I saw it at home)). It was a wash. Kerry continued to look good. Bush looked better than he has looked. In both cases I’m guessing not a lot of swing voters, or partisans needing motivation, were swayed in any way that they weren’t already going. Kerry probably keeps up his momentum, but more for consistency than any big point scores.
What interested me with Bush this time around was that something he did in the first debate, staying on message through repetition, he seemed to fail at this time around. Not in a big way, but when I first heard him say that Kerry was engaging in “e-x-a-g-e-r-a-t-i-o-n” I expected that to be the mantra of the night – it wasn’t. Nor was ‘Kerry as Ted Kennedy’ repeated as much as I might have guessed (although it was referenced more than once). There was no consistent Bush theme.
On the up side for Bush, he had some of the best smiles I’ve seen from the president ever (someone must be working on his facial gestures, and none too soon). It isn’t the case that he often looked good, but relatively speaking he looked much better than he often has looked.
Kerry seemed competent, calm, collected and reasonable. He handled religion well, if not always convincingly (it is a difficult spot he’s in). He did well in complementing Bush at appropriate moments. Having seen him in the first debates, I can’t say that anything else stood out – he did what was necessary.
Tie goes to Kerry because of momentum.