Debate Wrap-Up: Kerry Wins Big

One thing was clear (at least to me) after last night's debate: John Kerry knows how to debate and President Bush doesn't know how to speak on his own. Apparently, it was pretty clear to a few other people as well:

Three post-debate polls suggested voters who watched the policy-driven confrontation Thursday night were impressed by Kerry. Most of those surveyed said he did better than Bush.

Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards, said Friday he told Kerry after the debate "I think people saw the next commander in chief," and he criticized Bush for failing to acknowledge problems in Iraq. "You can't fix a problem if you're not willing to admit that mistakes have been made and that you have a problem," he told ABC's "Good Morning America."

Bush, however, believed he had effectively spelled out the strategy and shown the resolve with which he is fighting the war on terror, White House communications director Dan Bartlett said. "I think he spoke from the heart, spoke with strength about the necessity for our country to fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to face them here at home," Bartlett told ABC. "He had a good time last night."

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who informally advised Bush on how to debate his friend and Senate colleague, told reporters in Miami on Friday that the debate was probably Kerry's "brightest moment" in the last six weeks. "He presented himself well, John did," McCain said. "Kerry came out slugging."

Kerry's campaign prepared a TV ad that featured newspaper headlines from Friday praising the Democrat's performance. The Democratic National Committee was rolling out a Web video showing clips of Bush appearing frustrated at the debate.

When Kerry leveled some of his charges, Bush appeared irritated and scowled at times and, at other moments, glanced away in apparent disgust. Kerry often took notes when the president spoke. The television networks offered a split screen to viewers so they could see both men at the same time and watch their reactions.

Bush knew he would be on camera during the entire debate and was aware that the networks had not agreed to show only the candidate who was speaking, Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said. Regarding Bush's facial reactions, Devenish said: "The president reacted honestly. It showed the president really believes in his convictions."

Wait, so reacting with disgust, being visibly irritated and scowling shows that you really believe in your convictions? I was thinking you could just believe and look "presidential" for a few minutes. Guess Bush doesn't know how to do that. Lots more news on the issue. One of CNN's analysts, meant to be bi-partison, actually had this to say:

..., Sen. John Kerry probably did slightly better overall than President Bush, scoring perhaps a B+, while President Bush managed a B. That alone might be considered a win for Kerry, given that 52 percent of respondents in a recent Gallup poll expected Bush to perform better in the debates --compared with 39 percent for Kerry.

He also pointed out that Kerry's strong showing should get more people to watch the other debates. I fail to see how he could give Kerry a B+ and Bush merely a B. At best, Bush scored a C+, on my card. No one can stammer around that much and be seen as doing well. At one point, responding to Kerry, he paused for no more than 3 seconds just doing an, "um...umm....ummmmm.." kinda thing. Anyway, go here, if you'd like to see how CNN's pundits scored the thing (hint: Kerry did better, and it was clear, but they also kept it close).

Getting into specifics, USA Today/CNN/yourmom.com's gallup poll learned the following:

Most of those interviewed said Kerry did a better job than Bush, and nearly half said the debate made them feel more favorably toward Kerry.

By narrow margins Bush came out better on believability, likability and toughness.

But there was virtually no change among those polled on which candidate would handle Iraq better or make a better commander in chief, with Bush maintaining a double-digit advantage on both issues.

I still don't see why so many people see Bush as likeable or believable. Tough I'll give you, since he is always angry and scowling, but stammering doesn't make you sound very tough either.

Finally, I should say that on the Daily Show last night, General Wesley Clark, recapping the event, was very calm. He barely brushed over the issues, just pointed out what we all saw: Kerry was "on message," kept his responses short and took some pointed jabs at Bush that should have hit home. Bush didn't look very presidential. Rudy Giuliani, on the other hand, kept complaining how "confused" he was about Kerry's message. Jon Stewart almost got mad, saying that somehow what he had seen hadn't shown "on the TV I was watching." Giuliani was visibly shaken that Stewart was disagreeing with every bit of his take, as he tryed to spin it for the Bushes. Rudy did nothing but talk about Kerry's "confusing" issues and never even bothered to mention how Bush actually performed. It was funny and infuriating, all at once, because I just can't stand Rudy Giuliani. If you want a funny take on the whole night, check out Best Week Ever's Jessi Klein's summary of the evening and have a few laughs. The dems won, folks, and let's hope things keep going that way.
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