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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kerry Sweeps Debate Polls

Respondents choices on who won the 1st Presidential debate:
Kerry beat Bush 43-28 percent uncommitted voters, with 29 percent chosing a tie. – Knowledge Networks for CBS News
Kerry beat Bush 45-36 percent among debate viewers, with 17 for tie. Kerry won independents by 20-point margin – ABC News poll
Kerry beat Bush 53-37 percent of RV debate viewers with 8 percent for both, 1 percent neither, 1 percent no opinion – CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll

90 comments on “Kerry Sweeps Debate Polls

  1. Nanda S on

    Hi Folks,
    Just in case you have not read it yet, check out the piece on “Bush’s mystery bulge” on Salon.com. President Bush may have been secretly wired during the 1st debate. (Although hard to believe, I won’t be surprised a bit if it is true. Remeber this is the same president who did not want to testify alone in front of the 9/11 commission … so he took his VP Cheney along to make sure that he did not misstate anything.)
    Also read “Let him finish” piece (audio link) on urbansurvival.com which tends to support the above suspicion.
    (Remeber who Kerry’s team is dealing with — Karl Rove will leave no wire unplugged….. )
    Does Bush’s 180 degree metamorphosis from the 1st debate to the 2nd debate remind anyone of Al Gore in 2000 — how persona changed from one debate to another. Which Bush is going show up during the 3rd debate — perhaps one with loud sighs or howling breaths!!!

  2. scaredspitlessamerican on

    No grasp of the facts has always been a Bush problem, strongly related to the “I don’t do finesse” comment. The appeal has always been based upon allegedly witty soundbites and quips as camouflage to a frightening lack of knowledge. He then “spins” this condition into “part of his charm.”
    He has won his previous debates by a prideful demonstration of his own ignorance, distorted to appear more confident, clear and forceful.
    Either this format/Kerry or both prevented this historical strategy from getting off the ground, and either exhaustion from a 90 minute format or inability to creatively respond from anything other than a “planted” Rovism exposed his shallowness clearly. It exposed him as the reacting man he is rather than the thinking one we had hoped for.
    I hope that as we move into domestic issues, we’ll get some faint attempt at a clear resonse about education from the “Eddycashun” president.

  3. tony on

    After May 3, he continued to indicate we had gone about the war the wrong way.
    Given that he would not have fought the war as it was fought, I don’t see the contradiction in calling it the wrong war.
    I still don’t see a response to me about my Oct. 2 post.
    Yes, Kerry has sometimes gone over the top in his rhetoric. His has been, to my eye, grossly less than what Bush has done. And every time I see you or SJ being selective in your discussions, it furthers my movement away from the GOP. Calls for accountability by the GOP seemed good to me. But those calls seem only to apply to others as best I can tell.

  4. Bill Makuch on

    He cites it will be difficult, however, he doesn’t then conclude, because it’s difficult, it would be a mistake to invade without French and German troops. He doesn’t then call it a diversion, or the wrong war. Instead, all he says is, “all the more reason to insist on a process that invites support from the region and from our allies.”
    Bush did that, and was turned down by the French and Germans. Kerry knew that, and still wrote, and this is on May 3rd after we failed in his mind to follow his insistence about allies, “but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein.”
    So it’s fair for him to say – right war, wrong tactics, or wrong way. But to say wrong war, or diversion just because of current problems, is indeed Monday morning quarterbacking.
    BTW, as for campaign ads, factcheck.org has this out:
    “Kerry Ad Falsely Accuses Cheney on Halliburton
    A Kerry ad implies Cheney has a financial interest in Halliburton and is profiting from the company’s contracts in Iraq. The fact is, Cheney doesn’t gain a penny from Halliburton’s contracts, and almost certainly won’t lose even if Halliburton goes bankrupt.
    The ad claims Cheney got $2 million from Halliburton “as vice president,” which is false. Actually, nearly $1.6 million of that was paid before Cheney took office. More importantly, all of it was earned before he was a candidate, when he was the company’s chief executive.”
    So now you’ll become a republican?

  5. tony on

    I submitted Kerry’s complete NYTimes piece before, but don’t see it now.
    It shows him making the same points before the invasion as after, and again shows the selective use of his comments by Republicans, you in this particular instance:
    Perhaps the last post didn’t make it because I quoted the whole thing. Here’s a subpart of his essay:
    “There is, of course, no question about our capacity to win militarily, and perhaps to win easily. There is also no question that Saddam Hussein continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, and his success can threaten both our interests in the region and our security at home. But knowing ahead of time that our military intervention will remove him from power, and that we will then inherit all or much of the burden for building a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, is all the more reason to insist on a process that invites support from the region and from our allies. We will need that support for the far tougher mission of ensuring a future democratic government after the war.”
    The guy has been consistent. Before the war, he said there was a right way to do this thing. He specified what the right way was. Bush did not do it that way. Thus Kerry is not doing a Monday morning quarterback, rather he’s being consistent with what he’d predicted. And I note his prescience about the difficulty of ensuring that democratic government.
    The Republican approach of picking out small parts of his complex statements encourages the dumbing down of American political debate. That can’t be good for us.
    One further point. This is a quote from you:
    “The point you make would be valid, but only as Monday morning quarterbacking to question the president’s judgment.”
    Your referent is unclear. If you are referring to my critique of the 2002 quote you pulled out, I’ve already addressed your comment. If, though, you are referring to my point of Oct. 2 at 5:42, I don’t see how there is any Monday morning issue. You had indicated that two statements were contradictory. I demonstrated that they were, instead, consistent. And I’ve seen neither admission that I’m correct on that point nor rebuttal.

  6. Bill Makuch on

    Your latest post slipped in ahead of my reply, so here’s a reply to your latest post, and hopefully I’ll be clear.
    You are right that it’s not a contradiction for a candidate to support the efforts now even if that candidate stated in advance that the initial invasion was a mistake. My point is that Kerry is not that candidate, he’s just pretending to be that candidate after the fact for political expediency.
    Thanks for the link to factcheck.org: Specifically,they cite:
    “Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support.”
    However, they offer no quote to back that up, and I don’t know of any that exits. Furthermore, if he did say that, that contradicts his statment that he wouldn’t give foreign governments a veto, because in fact, that’s what would have happened.
    Using the entire quote changes nothing in my mind. Adding, “I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity,” does not equal “this is the wrong war.” In fact, he finished with, “but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein.”
    So I don’t see how leaving out part of a quote that doesn’t change the meaning is a problem here.
    As for you being disenchanted with tactics, so am I at times. As Karen Hughes wrote, “Perfect isn’t on the ballot.”

  7. Bill Makuch on

    Sorry for the delayed response.
    The point you make would be valid, but only as Monday morning quarterbacking to question the president’s judgment. But, if that’s the case, Kerry’s in the same boat, so vote for Nader.
    That’s because Kerry never said it would be a mistake to invade Iraq, even (as I cited above) “if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States.”
    And, in May, 2003:
    “I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity,” Kerry said, “but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I support him and I support the fact that we did disarm him.”
    Let’s remember that he voted against the first Gulf War even though there was a broad coalition and clear violation of international law by Iraq.
    So if we’re going to vote based on judgment, I can’t see where Kerry is the winner. That only leaves competence as commander in chief. In that area, all Kerry can claim is that he’s run a Senate Staff and a mediocre campaign. Oh, and he’s a good debater.

  8. tony on

    Bill M.
    I see you still haven’t responded to my post pointing out the consistency of things you declare inconsistency. I find that noteworthy.
    And I see that you are happily pulling partial statements of Kerry’s, something that Bush and colleagues are doing routinely these days, as witness that dopey riff they’re doing on the global test phrase.
    I’ve got to leave in just a few minutes, so here’s just one source:
    “Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry’s words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it.
    Here we present this highly misleading ad, along with what Kerry actually said, in full context.”
    Here’s a full quote from Kerry on May 3, 2003:
    “Q: And Senator Kerry, the first question goes to you. On March 19th, President Bush ordered General Tommy Franks to execute the invasion of Iraq. Was that the right decision at the right time?
    Kerry: George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the President made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.”
    Here’s the part the Republicans quote:
    “Kerry is shown saying it was “the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein.” ”
    I very nearly went to the Republicans a few years ago. The sorts of selective quotes and misrepresentations that I’ve seen Bush make and then seen folks like you and Smooth Jazz repeat have driven me far, far from the possibility of voting Republican any time in the forseeable future. There are things I don’t like about some Democratic arguments. But what I see the Republicans doing is not taking on the real things that Democrats are saying, but rather pulling out distortions, straw men, and tackling those. I suspect that sort of mentality is what led us to get into Iraq. It’s insulting in the hands of those who do not have power. It’s dangerous in the hands of those who do.
    Every selective statement that I see you and SJ make just drives me further and further away. Perhaps you don’t care about that, but I thought you ought to know.

  9. Bill Makuch on

    Prior to discovering his 20/20 hindsight, here’s what Senator Kerry said about the use of force in Iraq(New York Times editorial Septmber 6, 2002):
    “There is also no question that Saddam Hussein continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, and his success can threaten both our interests in the region and our security at home.”
    “If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act.”
    I may be dense, so help me find where he said invading Iraq would be a diversion and a costly mistake.

  10. tony on

    Bill M-
    I notice that you did not reply to my response.
    Indeed, in speeches at the time, Kerry sounded cautions. If I get some time later, I’ll dig them up.

  11. Bill Makuch on

    I don’t know what John Kerry’s IQ is, but I do know he voted to authorize the invasion. Can you sight a single quote of caution from him in advance of the war?

  12. erg on

    ‘How can you and other anti-war voters support a candidate that now says he will continue this “mistake” as long as it takes to win’
    Bill M., are you really this dense ?
    Every single person with an IQ in double digits and some knowledge of the Middle East knew that building a reasonably stable goverment (let alone the Democratic Nirvana that we were promised) was going to be extremely hard. We also knew that we couldn’t withdraw — that doing so would mean chaos, terrorist cells, Iranian domination of the South. That is why many of us were so concerned about the NeoCon fantaies.
    ANd now we’re in, its a mess. We don’t have a choice. We have to stay. out of strategic reasons, because our reputation would suffer a devastating blow if we left. The groups that drove us away would become xtremely popular, just as Hezbollah did after forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon.
    That is why we have to stay. We have to clean up GWB’s mess. All his life, other people have been cleaning up GWB’s messes for him, notably daddy and daddy’s friends. But this mess is too big for even daddy to clean up. We will be paying in blood and treasure for a decade to clean up Bush’s mess.

  13. Tony on

    Bill M-
    It was a mistake to go in. Now that we’re there, we have to stick it out. There’s no contradiction there.
    If I’m in a back alley surrounded by wild dogs, I can say, in all consistency, that it was a mistake to go there, but that we also now have to make the best of the situation.
    It’s been remarkable listening to the spin Bush is putting on Kerry statements since the debates. I’m wondering whether this will be more easily seen through by the public now that they’ve got the debates in their minds.

  14. pdb on

    RWhiz makes an interesting comment on Republican regional support. Actually if you look at the last few elections the mountain states have often shown higher GOP figures than the deep South. This is because of racial polarization in the latter area: the Black vote provides a sort of safety net for the Democrats, though at the same time White conservatism and solidarity makes it hard for a national Democrat to actually win. No Democratic presidential candidate who wasn’t himself a Southerner has carried a single Southern state since HHH got Texas in ’68 (the one state anywhere where it was still an advantage to be associated with LBJ); but Mondale got 38% in Alabama, as against 25% in Utah.

  15. Bel on

    It will be quite a phenominal thing if Kerry wins in Nov. This guy would have battled against a pro GWB media, a relenteless GOP attack machine and a bush team that bent and distorted every shred of credible information placed on the table.
    I am sure he will breathe a sigh of relief on Nov 3. .. win or lose. if he wins however, what a victory and what a celebration. He is truly in the hands of the elecorate as his support in other main steam venues is not present.

  16. Bill Makuch on

    erg wrote:
    “American troops in Iraq are dying for a mistake. However, one doubts very much that the Republicans will want to play this up….”
    President Bush yesterday: “After voting for the war, after saying my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, he now says it was all a mistake. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say it’s a mistake and not a mistake. You can’t be for getting rid of Saddam Hussein when things look good, and against it when times are hard”
    I’m sure we’ll hear that Tuesday night as well, and if you don’t think that will resonate with voters, I think you’re way off base. However, time will tell.
    I am curious: How can you and other anti-war voters support a candidate that now says he will continue this “mistake” as long as it takes to win? If elected, wouldn’t he, in your mind, be filling the shoes of Richard Nixon? After all, Nixon was elected to bring peace with honor yet continued the war.If Kerry wins, will you protest against his policy to continue to send troops to die for a “mistake”?

  17. Delilah on

    Smooth Jazz, we are not “giddy.” Frankly, it gets a bit old to have to be subjected to such a condescending suggestion. We just know damned well that Kerry kicked Bush’s posterior in the debate and the rest of the world knows it. We know that going into the debates we were behind in the polls. We know that a stellar debate performance by Kerry does not guarantee an advantage in the next series of polls. We understand that we still have A LOT of work to do and your boy Bush could very well end up with another four years. We are not living in fantasy land. That terrain is already occupied by the Bush administration. BUT we also know that our candidate, John Kerry, has a damned good chance to do to George Bush on November 2 what he did on September 30. And you know it too, which is exactly why you keep posting here.

  18. Elrod on

    Take a look at the internals. On every single quality relating to character, foreign policy, fighting terrorism, Iraq and national security Kerry advanced by leaps and bounds. There are many people who will NEVER believe a Democrat is better on these issues, including many who vote for Democrats. Looking at the post-debate matchup on these factors, where Kerry literally cut Bush’s lead in half on all of them, I’d have to say that Kerry has almost neutralized Bush at his strength. I’ve long believed that if Bush’s War on Terrorism numbers aren’t more than +10 then he will lose the election. They are only +8 in this poll.
    As for the horse race numbers it usually takes a few days to sink in. Many undecided voters want to hear about domestic policy before committing. Many want to see how they feel in a few days after talking to their friends, reading about the substance of the comments, and listening to other people (spinners included). That is normal. But if the internals were able to shift to Kerry that quickly on issues of strength to Bush then it’s more likely than not that the horse race numbers will move too. Bush still has a chance in the next two debates. Kerry’s expectations will increase. But the public is not on Bush’s side in domestic matters as it was on foreign policy. Bush will have to do the convincing. And I’d imagine that uttering “tax cuts tax cuts tax cuts” won’t pull over many more undecided voters than “mexed missages mixed messages mixed messages” did.

  19. bruhrabbit on

    1) thursday was great- Let’s get back to the work of making sure it wasn’t an aberation.
    2) Kerry won for one and only one reason- he became a viable alternative. remember Bush was moving ahead in the polls b/c people didn’t see kerry as viable- that dynamic of the election narrative has changed. How do I know this? a) post election coverage b) anecdotal stories from focus groups (moderate republicans saying if kerry got elected it wouldnt be so bad- this is the crack in the inevitability armor that can be exploited).
    3) we need to get back to work to get Kerry in office (and while we are at it- take the senate)

  20. erg on

    ‘I would see how the GLOBAL TEST angle plays out in the coming days before getting to giddy!’
    SJ, you;re the one who seems giddy. I mean, we have plenty of ammo of our own, including Bush’s not knowing who attacked us on 09/11, his comments about not having enough money to pay for homeland security and so on. No to mention the dynamite video of the “Faces of Bush”.
    Also, Kerry has finally brought up Tora Bora. It was risky to do so before, since Bin Laden might have been captured before the election. Now, unfortunately, it looks like UBL is not going to be caught, and once the winter freeze sets in, that becomes even more unlikely. Its entirely appropriate to point out that Bush doesn’t think much about Bin Laden any more.
    So far, the Democrats have generally played softball on some of Bush’s comments, (e.g. his comment about how he thught the WoT could not be won). Now, perhaps its time to broadcast some ads of all the Bush or Cheney Flip-flops. Maybe even remind everyone that Ken Lay was Bush’s biggest contributor or that Cheney once said that he thought that high oil prices were great. Unfair ? Probably, but payback.

  21. mudwall jackson on

    smooth jazz
    if indeed kerry picked up 2 points that is in fact a very big deal. remember, there are two more debates and a full month before the election. to just dismiss it is wrong….

  22. James on

    Smooth Jazz,
    I’m impressed. If I were Karl Rove right now, I’d be worrying for my job!
    “Today, the cold water rears its ugly ahead again with President Bush’s dynamite speech in Allentown PA this afternoon.”
    With a controlled audience of course. It didn’t sound like a “dynamite” speech to me. It sounds like the same one I’ve heard over the last two months.
    Besides, the effect of the speech is limited, due to the pre-debate buzz.
    “I don’t think Dems should rush out and get cognacs for the celebrations just yet, if James Carville’s/DNC’s Demo Corps poll is to be believed. Yikes, all the Lib enthusiasm and Kerry pick up TWO points. Gee, so GWB wins by 2 instead of 4 – BIG DEAL!!”
    You can’t get the full impact on the polls a DAY after the debate. But yes, it is a big deal, because, if it’s true, it puts Bush’s lead back into the MoE.

  23. Smooth Jazz on

    Tom, Regarding your 3:14 PM Post:
    I don’t think Dems should rush out and get cognacs for the celebrations just yet, if James Carville’s/DNC’s Demo Corps poll is to be believed. Yikes, all the Lib enthusiasm and Kerry pick up TWO points. Gee, so GWB wins by 2 instead of 4 – BIG DEAL!!
    You see Bel & others, Americans don’t pick Presidents because they can mouth hyperbole & platitudes, guided by a Dem leaning moderator. Americans pick Presidents based on clarity of vision and purpose, augmented by their views on how a Presidents executes his strategy and plans. And, to be sure, Kerry didn’t solve that dilemna last night.
    Today, the cold water rears its ugly ahead again with President Bush’s dynamite speech in Allentown PA this afternoon. If I were you ‘all, I would see how the GLOBAL TEST angle plays out in the coming days before getting to giddy!

  24. Mike In MD on

    I was pleasantly surprised by the consensus about Kerry “winning” the dabate (I didn’t actually watch it; had after hours to work to do.) This doesn’t decide the election by any means, but it is a much needed Democratic morale booster.
    Incidentally, the Gallup pre-and-post-debate poll (of RV’s) gave the GOP a four-point advantage in respondents (36-32, with 32% independents.) This isn’t as egregious as some of the earlier results, especially of likely voters, but still seems off the mark, tilted toward the GOP.
    I think Kerry may have passed his toughest moment of the fall campaign, by successfully going toe-to-toe with Bush on what is perceived as Bush’s strength. Now let’s hope Kerry doesn’t get too cocky and make mistakes in later encounters. If he’s really a good closer, then October is the month to prove it.

  25. mudwall jackson on

    a comment and a question: the dow and the nasdaq ain’t heading for the sky. they’re not even anywhere near their highs of four years ago. the nasdaq won’t see its 2000 high, albeit inflated by the tech bubble, for years to come.
    the question: who did gallup poll and does the controversy concerning the oversampling of repubs have any relevancy to the post-debate poll?

  26. Paul C on

    “As I write this the DOW & NASDAQ are heading for the sky, in part because we have launched a major offensive in Iraq to wipe out some jihadists according to a commentator I just heard on CNBC. Me thinks events like today in Iraq where we appear to be on the offensive, will play a bigger role in the election that 1 debate, notwitstanding the cocoon mentality.”
    Smooth, I don’t know how old you are, but for those of us over 50 this is deja vu all over again. The U.S. “sweeps” that killed hundreds or thousands of Viet Cong were duly reported by the U.S. media about every week. We were doing great. Just a matter of time until all of the Cong were wiped out and the true democratic government of South Vietnam could start to play a larger role. Then one day, after the “sweeps” had killed about 15 times more Cong than had ever existed, the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive. Days and days of vicious fighting. Yes, we finally turned them back — but suddenly people realized that LBJ had a “credibility gap.” In other words, we had been misled about what wonderful progress we were making over there. It was straight down hill after that.
    Indeed, deja vu all over again.

  27. Tom on

    A democracy corps poll has some interesting info about the effect of the debate on voters. In fairly large sample they found some very interesting things. I’m sure Ruy and co. will go into this more extensively but a quick summation. Kerry helped himself a bit with horse race numbers. He moved from down four to down two, including leaners. Not a big leap, but a significant one when you consider the poll sample disproportionally voted for Bush in 2000 49-44. The real thunder of the poll though is contained in the areas about specific policy issues. Kerry made significant gains (more than five points, sometimes more than ten) on the President in every foreign policy and security issue. every one. According to this poll, Kerry has cut bush’s lead on the issues where the Senator is most vulnerable. If Kerry can hold his lead on domestic issues, things are looking up. The forementioned poll:

  28. Dana on

    Don’t forget our ally Poland? It looks like our ally Poland has already decided to forget us.
    From http://www.turnspit.com/archives/week_2004_09_26.php#000390 comes:
    Poland plans on pulling out troops at the end of 2004 (http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2004/0420/3783682793HM1SCALLY.html). After the election.
    >A senior adviser to the Polish government
    >confirmed to The Irish Times that Warsaw’s
    >decision had been influenced by the Spanish
    >move. “Given the circumstances [in Iraq], we
    >will probably diminish significantly the forces
    >at the end of 2004,” said Prof Tadeusz Iwinski,
    >secretary of state for international affairs in
    >the office of the prime minister.
    >Questioned further by The Irish Times, he said:
    >”It is much easier to send troops in than to
    >withdraw them, but we will probably do it at the
    >end of 2004 or the start of 2005.”
    And don’t forget what Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said(http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1069242.htm): “They deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that’s true. We were taken for a ride.”
    For what it’s worth, news like this should drive home a point to our Polish-American friends in Milwaukee and Cleveland.

  29. spk on

    will all the people in the room who intend to vote for george w. bush, who also think he is a more intelligent man than themselves … please raise their hands?
    we rest our case.

  30. Bel on

    and whats up with Bush keep begging for 30 more seconds.. literally barging in and disrupting the presenter.. dont this guy ever intend to play by the rules? what kinda brat is he? whose child is he anyway? no parental training it seems.. spoilt brat.

  31. Bel on

    smoooth jazz is spinning himself into a dizzying frenzy while trying to come to grips with Bush’s baffling performance last night.
    I cant believe this guy came to the debates unprepared and was even willing to read his responses directly off some piece of paper.
    He looked so scruffy and ruffled and flustered.. what was the matter with this Bush guy? I suspect that he will now be getting a sympathetic votes.. so people will soon start feeling sorry for him.. poor guy.

  32. RP on

    “However, on substance, he took several stands that will be countered in the next few weeks, first on Tuesday, and also in numerous ads.”
    I’m pretty sure that the debate rules prohibit the candidates from using clips from the debate in ads.

  33. erg on

    “We need a foreign policy that meets the global test.”
    Here’s the full quote
    ‘But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
    Here we have our own secretary of state who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. ‘
    Seems pretty straightforward to me. It doesn’t contradict his other statement at all.
    ‘This war was a mistake”
    “No, the troops aren’t dying for a mistake”
    Can anybody convince American voters that those statements aren’t contradictory’
    No, they are contradictory. American troops in Iraq are dying for a mistake. However, one doubts very much that the Republicans will want to play this up because they don’t want Americans thinking more about the casualties and why they’re happening.
    ‘The fact is, Senator Kerry provided plenty of material for the Bush campaign.’
    The fact is that Bush, provided as much if not more material, claiming we couldn’t afford homeland security, confusing Saddam and Osama, and so on.

  34. erg on

    ‘As I write this the DOW & NASDAQ are heading for the sky, in part because we have launched a major offensive in Iraq to wipe out some jihadists according to a commentator I just gheard on CNBC’
    I can do one better than that. My neighbor’s pet parakeet said it was because there was some good economic news this morning (for once). Its utterly ridiculous to assume that a major offensive in Iraq is likely to drive stock prices up — certainly stock price movements in recent months didn’t correlate at all with actions in Najaf, fallujah etc. And you say we live in cocoons ..

  35. Uncle Rojo on

    No one is breaking out the champagne. You think we’re a bunch of kids? Indisputable is that Bush looked awful. We know that may not translate into votes for Kerry because of any number of factors, but incontestable by any reasonably objective observer is that Bush looked incompetent, uninformed, petulant and full of resentment towards a person he regards as an upstart if not his inferior.
    I suspect Bush was coachable in 2000, because it was his 1st prez campaign. Clearly Bush has not grown into the job as did Truman and Eisenhower and JFK.
    A highly prominent industrial psychologist once told me that one characteric of successful executives and mgrs is coachability. They listen to their speechwriters, consultants, etc and internalize what they need to get things done and be more effective.
    In contrast, Kerry — for this time anyway — listened to his handlers. He dropped the semicolons and spoke in short, sound clip sentences. Moreover, he appeared in command of his material. He looked more “presidential” than the president!
    One study showed that dislike of Bush was greatest among people with college and then graduate degrees. I don’t believe it’s greater liberalism only. I think such people are more attuned to competence as it manifests itself in platfom skill and thinking on one’s feet.

  36. RWhiz on

    Well, I think that this particular debate clearly went to John Kerry. At times I almost felt sorry for President Bush. This ‘pin the flip-flop on the Donkey’ routine has become an embarrassment. I want to hear answers, I want to see a plan. I don’t want sound bites and artificial characterizations. This particular debate was supposed to be to President Bush’s strength. If this is the best he can do, when it comes to the economy and healthcare, it’s only going to get worse and more embarrassing.
    Having said that–I’ve been watching the polls and the percentages from different regions of the country. As a west-coaster, I use to feel that the South was somewhat out of tune. The mountain states are beginning to make the South look downright liberal! What is Utah and Wyoming and Oklahoma seeing that I’m not seeing?
    George W. Bush, in my opinion, is a very weak President who was not being candid with us or the rest of the world when it comes to Iraq. He has alienated many friends and supporters around the world. The economy compared to ten years ago is a mess and so is the budget.
    Why can I see this so clearly, but Utah and Wyoming and Oklahoma can’t?
    The polarization in this country scares me more than anything else.

  37. Bill Makuch on

    Clearly Kerry accomplished a few things last night. He silenced doubters on the “we nominated the wrong guy” worry. He also charged up the base, no doubt about it. In fact, he did everything he could do in a first debate. However, on substance, he took several stands that will be countered in the next few weeks, first on Tuesday, and also in numerous ads.
    Several examples (paraphrased)
    “We need a foreign policy that meets the global test.”
    Americans overwhelmingly reject that approach
    “I will never give foreign governments a veto over our foreign policy.”
    That contradicts his last statement
    “The way to win the war is to hold a summit”
    Since when has a summit ever defeated terrorists or tyrants?
    “I will bring in new allies”
    France has 300 troops in Afghanistan, a war they supported. How many will they contribute to a war that they are told is a mistake and distraction?
    “This war was a mistake”
    “No, the troops aren’t dying for a mistake”
    Can anybody convince American voters that those statements aren’t contradictory
    The fact is, Senator Kerry provided plenty of material for the Bush campaign.

  38. pdb on

    We know perfectly well that there is another world out there, with people who admire Bush. We don’t understand them, but we know they’re there.
    The people in that world don’t seem to know that there’s an even larger world outside of theirs, where people perceive our glorious military adventure in Iraq as shameless imperialism, and Bush’s attitude as oneof contempt for the views of anyone who isn’t American, at least nominally Christian, and financially successful. And those who see it that way are not just foreigners, who unfortunately can’t vote here; there are quite a few of us Americans who see it that way as well.

  39. Mara on

    Kerry clearly won the debate. Anyone saying anything different is engaging in wishful thinking. Kerry was clear and focused. Bush was incredibly twitchy and seemed annoyed most ot the time. Consensus: Kerry=Champ; Bush=Chimp.
    That said, I think it’s early to celebrate. By the next debate, we’ll see a new and improved Bush. He’ll control the twitching (by himself or they’ll up his medication), and his body language will be much improved. It won’t be so easy next time out of the box.
    Bush’s handlers haven’t done him any favors by exposing him to exclusively friendly crowds and by limiting his live press conferences. He appeared to be just what he is – a man unaccustomed to being criticized for his errors and now being held accountable.

  40. RP on

    “As I write this the DOW & NASDAQ are heading for the sky, in part because we have launched a major offensive in Iraq to wipe out some jihadists according to a commentator I just gheard on CNBC.”
    On what do you base this assertion? I could just as easily say that the DOW shot up b/c of Kerry’s performance in last night’s debate.

  41. pdb on

    Poland may not be a major military power, but it commands the affection, if not loyalty, of significant voting blocs in places like Milwaukee and Cleveland.

  42. scottso on

    Bill Makuch,
    Your “cold water” post misses the point.
    First, by your numbers, Clinton should be counted as the real winner of the 1992 debate, since he performed clearly the best of the two major party candidates (Perot never had much of a chance of actually being elected). So that would make it 2 out of 5 who won the first debate getting elected, which is not different from chance. So it’s no guarantee, and neither is it a bad prognostic sign.
    Second, the whole concept of “winning” a debate is really silly. There is no score kept, no official prize awarded. The debate is a means to the end of getting elected, and so the only reasonable definition of “winning” a debate is “the guy who got more votes as a consequence.”
    This is, of course, hard to measure, especially since debates do not necessarily demonstrate an immediate effect, but rather serve to change the overall tenor of the race, with results apparent (presumably) by Election Day. NBC had a little focus group of undecided Ohioans after the debate, all of whom felt that Kerry was clearly superior. One woman went on to describe why she thought Kerry acquitted himself better, causing the host to ask, “So why are you still undecided?” She answered: “I’m waiting to hear what they have to say in the next 4 weeks.” That’s somebody who will not show up this morning as a new Kerry voter, but she surely will on 11/2.
    It is also true that any given candidate in any given election has his own goals to accomplish with a debate, depending on the situation, the dynamics of the race, etc. In that regard, I think Kerry unquestionably won himself some support — and a lot of second looks — last night, making him the de facto “winner.”

  43. standa on

    It Was a Rout
    By William Rivers Pitt
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective
    Friday 01 October 2004
    “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”
    – Howard Cosell
    No amount of spin will be able to undo the reality of what took place in Florida on Thursday night. What happened on that stage was an absolute, immutable truth. Bush looked bad. Worse, he looked uninformed, overmatched and angry. Worst of all, he’s going to have to go through it two more times.

  44. George Wallace on

    Yes, but in the 2000 election, VP Gore was ahead in the CNN poll prior to the first debate. That is a difference between that cycle and this cycle. Therefore, what ramifications will occur with the lagging candidate having been perceived as the victor?

  45. Smooth Jazz on

    Bill Makuch,
    Your posting on the Mondale/Reagan debate is very telling. Mondale admittedly whacked RR the first time around, in part because RR was showing his age by 1984, but we know what happened to Mondale – He won 1 state.
    I see many posters on this board are already breaking out the champagne; They think after 1 debate Kerry is ready to start picking out WH curtains, ignoring the fact that Kerry is, at bottom, a weak, anti-military candidate. At the same time, I can understand the thinking in their cocoon: They hate Bush so much that they don’t realize there is another world out there with people who admire this President greatly, warts and all.
    As I write this the DOW & NASDAQ are heading for the sky, in part because we have launched a major offensive in Iraq to wipe out some jihadists according to a commentator I just gheard on CNBC. Me thinks events like today in Iraq where we appear to be on the offensive, will play a bigger role in the election that 1 debate, notwitstanding the cocoon mentality.
    Events not debates will define thsi election IMHO.

  46. Cranky Observer on

    > “You and your supporters smeared Al Gore’s
    > character in 2000, and you have attacked my
    > character this year. Mr President, the country
    > deserves better. I ask the voters to reject the
    > politics of character assasination. The
    > President and his party will continue to use
    > these tactics until you stand up and reject them
    > at the ballot box.”I believe this line of
    > attack would put Bush squarely on the defensive.
    > What do others think?
    I think if the American people rejected the politics of character assasination that it wouldn’t work year after year, which it does. P.T. Barnum had several sayings about it I believe.
    For Kerry to mention any of those ads or words, much less mention Gore, would have been to associate himself with them permanantly.

  47. cloudy on

    Bush may have LOOKED like he knew what he was talking about on N Korea, but (and unfortunately Kerry didn’t nail him on that or numerous other points of extreme vulnerability — tho he did get him on that “the enemy attacked us” gaffe) as Biden pointed out later, China is PUSHING us to enter bilateral talks. If anyone might object to bilateral talks among our partners, my guess it would be S Korea. The real justification for the Bush Administration position is that they just don’t want to offer “carrots” to N Korea, which is what bilateral talks would involve, in exchange for an intrusive inspection regime like in Iraq (before the invasion). That really is the only solution. Another thing is that the financing of the previous deal w N Korea was denied by the Republican Congress, which is why that was never as effective as it could have been (Kerry didn’t go into that either.)
    On the flipflop issue — since the point is to win the ELECTION not just the debate, Kerry had an opportunity to dismiss it clearly as “just a spin” and explain CLEARLY that he voted for one version of a bill and against another. His failure to confront that issue, and here was his possibly last best chance, could cost him the election. It is the MAIN template of the Bush campaign and most voters in polls appear to buy it.
    The other main argument, related to the flipflop image was the “mixed signals”. Here, as in several other key instances, Bush had his proverbial posterior stuck way out just asking to get kicked hard. Kerry does have a presidential demeanor but he just doesn’t go in for the kill (except on that “enemy” line). The point is that in a democracy, if foreign policy mistakes are made, they have to be vetted in a democratic election campaign. If we talk about fighting for liberty in other countries, we have to walk the walk. And criticizing the blunders, misstatements, inconsistencies and misjudgments of the Administration — ESPECIALLY when they won’t own up to it themselves, is part of the democratic process, something 9-11 should NOT be used to try to undermine here at home. On the ‘global test’ issue, Kerry still has time to explain that. Although he doesn’t have the same opportunity to confront the flipflop spin as DURING the debate, he could put together another speech supplementing the debate, to point out a number of significant errors Bush made, to drive home certain points (eg about ‘mixed messages’ and the Bush Administration’s intolerance of criticism, etc.)

  48. chris on

    here’s a thought. while all the stuff about style and substance and scoring debate points and looking presidential and every other thing certainly resonates with me and mine, the GOP machine has successfully distilled America’s “choice” down to resolute-guy vs. flip flopper-guy. i know i know. bush is really flip flopper-guy. karl rove is evil. yadda yadda.
    my point is this: that “choice” captures the perspective of and employs the rhetoric of the evangelical church goer. it’s a 2000 year-old storyline that bush is using to convey his own narrative. he was lost, but now he’s found. he knows he’s right, despite what others may say. he will prevail, against all odds. he is resolute, in the face of attack.
    this is a new testament theme that resonates in the american psyche and doesn’t have to be spelled out using debate points and looking this way or that. it always has. resonated, that is. (it’s what makes europe scratch its collective head at us.) this narrative theme has been at the core of every lasting social movement in america. civil rights. populism. abolition.
    we downplay its significance at our peril.

  49. wilder on

    Of course, that’s if you believe Clinton actually lost the first debate in 1996, which no one who watched would believe. And that’s if you believe Gore actually lost the election, which he didn’t. So that would make it two of the last five elections, at most. Doesn’t sound all that damning to me.

  50. tony on

    Upper Left-
    I think that argument is a strong one. But I think the timing for it is one of the other two debates. I’d expect the “I’m a uniter not a divider” line to be used against Bush in some way such as you expect.
    Bill M-
    Very interesting and creative use of statistics.
    Gallup has the following historic numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates for the changes in perceptions of a candidate based on the debate: more favorable post debate minus less favorable post debate.
    Gore’s differences were +7, +8, and +9. W’s were +14, +20, and +28. Clinton’s in ’92 were +5 and +15. Bush I’s in ’92 were +4 and -11 (!). This time? Kerry was +33, the best of any of the numbers Gallup presented. Bush was at +4, better only than the performance of his father, who lost.
    The numbers you present include Ross Perot. If you look at Bush I vs. Clinton in that race, Clinton outdid Bush. So if you’d phrased it “the candidate who did worst in the first debate went on to win, you’re looking at 3 in 5. And two of those three were losses that were considerably smaller than this year’s, so of dubious use for the sort of comparison you’re trying to make.
    Gallup has Kerry with a +16 lead in the “who won” question. Looking at the other 8 debates they present, that ranks 4th, behind only three of Clinton’s wins:
    Gore +7
    W +7
    Gore +2
    Clinton vs. Dole +30
    Clinton vs. Dole +19
    Clinton vs. Bush I +14
    Clinton vs. Bush I +42
    Clinton vs. Bush I tied
    Clinton had two blowout debates. This one seems not to have hit that level. But it *is* as big a win as the next two Clinton wins, and notably bigger than the next four margins after that.
    How it will translate? Well, we’ll see. I’ve said all along this will be close, and I think it will be. But this was quite a good step for Mr. Kerry.

  51. Bill Makuch on

    Gallup 53-37 Kerry won the debate, so it’s actually more favorable for the senator than the other polls. But, we’re not electing a debator, we’re electing a commander in chief. Check the internals:
    Who would handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief ?
    Bush 54 Kerry 44
    Would do a better job handling Iraq?
    Bush 54 Kerry 44
    Demonstrated he is tough enough for the job
    Bush 54 Kerry 37

  52. fester on

    Some of Bush’s strangest diversions to my ears (a secular liberal) were definately not targeted to me, or to most readers of this blog. The loving her as well as I could diversion was a direct pull out of the bible (I wish I could find the appropriate Psalm) and his closing statement had several strong allusions to bibilical language (mainly Old Testament, I think). Those words made sense to his base which is his best hope of winnig this election. Just keep that in mind when we analyze his language and meanders through the English language.

  53. Marcus Lindroos on

    > You can certainly see why Rove and company spend
    > so much time stage managing the president anytime
    > he goes anywhere near the public.
    BTW, Der Karl reportedly looked very annoyed when (conservative-) NY Post responded with a “Can you really say that with a straight face?” to his ridiculous spin that Shrub had been very good whereas Kerry’s performance in the debate was one of his worst ever.

    As I pointed out in another message, Hugh Hewitt (eech), Lucianne.com and Townhall.com (who have compiled a ridiculously biased, edited list of press comments) all claim Chimp won and Kerry is toast. It seems the rest of the usual suspects reluctantly concede Kerry, at worst, managed a draw — although some of them quickly go on predicting it won’t be enough. Some are also complaining the format was “unfair” and “biased” since Lehrer didn’t ask more questions about Kerry’s previous Senate votes. I also detect an uneasiness about their Great War Leader’s performance, e.g. that he wasn’t able to exploit most of Kerry’s supposed gaffes. Of course, the smarter conservatives are (at best) lukewarm “Shrub” supporters and regard him as the lesser of two evils.

  54. Joe Zainea on

    Bush is not toast; not yet anyway. The Republican attack machine wil now go into overdrive to negate Kerry’s gains from last night.
    The Kerry campaign must now concentrate it’s efforts at bringing home all those Dems who were reluctant to support him. Bush’s lead in the polls, I believe, were due mainly to the GOP’s ability to corral in their natural base. I remember seeing some polls that had more Dems going for Bush than Repubs going for Kerry. In football that’s known as “take-aways”. In a closely divided electorate, winning big on “take-aways” can be decisive.
    While I don’t believe Kerry can win the “take-away” battle, he can win the battles for turn-out and the hearts and minds of independents. Kerry has much work to do, and so do we who support him.

  55. DanF on

    If you think Kerry did well last night, expect him to do better in the town hall debate. Town hall type rally’s is where he excelled in the primaries. He can really connect with people in these type of settings. Bush will, for the first time in this election, be in front of a crowd that has not signed a pledge of support. We saw last night how well he handles criticism.

  56. true believer on

    The smart, serious guy should be president?? What a novel concept!!
    It was refreshing to see W exposed for the limited ability hack that he truly is. Spewing a few phrases over and over in a desperate attempt to get a sound bite to play on TV. (besides the constant shilling on Fox).
    I think the thing to watch very carefully is the polls in battleground states among undecided female voters. I believe they will be moving toward JK strongly after staring into the abyss of 4 more years of extreme right wing policy and poor leadership George W offered up last night.
    It’s a beautiful day (to steal a campaign song slogan)
    Can’t wait for John Edwards to take down Darth Vader Cheney!!
    True Believer

  57. Bill Makuch on

    Before Kerry supporters get too excited, they should study a little history. Winning the first debate has not mattered. In 4 of the last five elections, the winner of the first debate lost on election night:
    Sept. 30, 2004: Kerry 53/ Bush 37 (-16)
    Oct. 3, 2000: Gore 48/Bush 41 (-7)
    Oct. 6, 1996 Clinton 51/Dole 32 (-19)
    Oct. 11, 1992 Perot: 47/Clinton 30/ Bush 16 (-17, -31)
    Sept. 28, 1998 Dukakis 38/ Bush 29 (-9)
    Sept. 28-30, 1984 Mondale 54/Reagan 35 (-19)

  58. mudwall jackson on

    it’s important to remember that for a lot of voters, this was their first unfiltered look at john kerry. for that reason, the pre-debate polls that gave bush the lead are as meaningless as the preconvention polls that had kerry ahead. last night certainly gives you reason to believe…

  59. William Veinot on

    This is among the most rational of web-sites and yet I find myself in Allan Greenspan’s words filled with” illrational exuberance” after watching John Kerry take control of the debate. Bush had no place to hide and I thought if this was a boxing match they would have had to stop the fight to protect Bush. I am walking on air today. Kerry seemed likee the real president, in command of the facts and taking control of the room. If the polls do not show improvement my faith in the American people will be broken. I’m looking forward to Saturday Night Live already!

  60. Steve Cohen on

    tony, you nailed it.
    “The Pubbie’s arguments about Kerry have been about a straw man. Last night, they had to face Kerry, instead. And it sure looked good to me.”
    This is exactly what the Republicans had to prevent and they failed. Bush has high negatives. What’s kept them afloat is that they managed to tag Kerry with some high negatives too. Last night, they let him out of that box.
    About damn time.

  61. John D on

    If Kerry pulls further ahead in the polls or even stays where he is the likelihood of Rove pulling some stunt — Oct surprise — will rise exponentially.
    The pubbies are already engaged in vote suppression in FL and OH & push polling in MD and WV. My greatest fear is something extra-legal to postpone or nullify an election of Kerry should that occur. I’ve been following politics for a half century and I never dreamed I’d ever be thinking this way, but that’s what happens when the Roves
    take over our govn’t.

  62. Barbara in FL on

    There is NO question as to who won last night.
    When I first turned it on, I was prepared for something entertaining, and I certainly got it.
    The first obvious thing for me was that Mr. Bush was SCARED TO DEATH. He was the deer in the headlights last night. I was wondering if he had on Depends (old folks stuff) so he wouldn’t soil himself.
    Between the blinking eyes (a liars trait), the contortions of his face (I didn’t know he had ticks) and the pounding on the podium (confirming how very angry and scared he was), followed by his incoherent speech pattern (uh, um, uh, um), I was almost feeling sorry for him (almost).
    The thing most striking to me was all of his answers were short and non-sensical. At one point he was asked a question and for several seconds, we had dead air. I thought he had a stroke or something, but then he answered and it was a doozy.
    He tried to find words in his memory, but because they weren’t written and in front of him, he was without any. How sad is that? When speaking of the wife of a deceased soldier and having a hard time “loving her”….brought me back to the OB-GYN flub where he said these doctors need to practice their “love” on women. In all my voting life, I have never seen such an inept, incompetent unintelligent individual sitting in the most powerful office in the world, and it scares the heck out of me.

  63. Oregonian on

    I think the stark side-by-side contrast of Kery and Bush has let many Americans who pay scant attention to politics see what most of us could see from the beginning: Bush is not a magnificent leader — he is in way over his head. As for likeability, I’ve never understood why people concede this factor to Bush. Every time I’ve seen him, I literally have a “makes-my-skin-crawl” reaction to his demeanor. He’s pissy, snippy, irritable, arrogant, immature. He says the most basic, obvious slogans “well, I’m for freedom” or some such B.S. as if they were controversial and he’s the only one who is able to stick up for freedom. Last night, when he had to stand out there on his own, he was unmasked. And what’s behind the mask ain’t pretty.

  64. Upper left corner on

    I was a regular here during the primary season (first as a Deaniac, and then after Iowa in support of Edwards). I have continued to visit this site frequently since then, but have kept my thoughts to myself.
    So far the campaign has unfolded much as I feared it would: I knew that W and the R attack machine would label Kerry as an effete, liberal, flip-flopper. Kerry’s lead, based on the underlying opposition to Bush, has slowly and steadily eroded.
    Last night restored a bit of hope. Bush looked like the simple-minded, stubborn, petulent, fool that he is. Kerry was strong and self-assured.
    However, I believe that Kerry missed an opportunity to turn W’s flip-flop attack on its head. Politics is like judo: you need to use your opponents momentum against them. Why doesn’t Kerry say something like this, “Mr. President, throughout this campaign you and your supporters have attacked my character. Your supporters accused me of lieing about my service to this country in Vietnam, and you have spent over $100 million dollars on ads that try to portray me as a weak, vasilating, flip-flopper. Mr. President, the American public deserves better. Our voters, our soldiers, our country, especially in this time of war, deserves a real debate about the issues facing our country. We don’t need a juvenile, food-fight. We don’t need name-calling and character assasination.”
    “You and your supporters smeared Al Gore’s character in 2000, and you have attacked my character this year. Mr President, the country deserves better. I ask the voters to reject the politics of character assasination. The President and his party will continue to use these tactics until you stand up and reject them at the ballot box.”
    I believe this line of attack would put Bush squarely on the defensive. What do others think?

  65. Davis X. Machina on

    Can Ms. or Mr. America, on the strength of the debate, now walk away from George Bush, as they have been wanting to do for months, without being pointed to at the coffee shop, or losing friends over it?
    If the answer is ‘yes’, then it’s all over.
    I think it’s close to that point now….

  66. ED on

    I was checking all the instant on-line polls,TV, Radio, Newspaper, and there were a lot of them, and all were overwhelmingly Kerry in a land slide.

  67. bt on

    Through endless, disciplined repetition of the flip-flopper mantra the Republicans entered last night having largely succeeded in making the alleged flip-flopping of Kerry the decisive issue in this election.
    This may prove to be a fatal mistake on their part. If so, it will serve them right. I don’t think a truly undecided voter watching last night could come away seeing Kerry as wavering, weak, indecisive, unpresidential–any of those things the Republicans have said or implied he is, over and over. Leaving the merits of the substantive arguments and differences aside, the visuals, the persona Kerry projected, did much to eviscerate that depiction of him. I think what he did last night is re-open the minds of many persuadables who had been taken in by the flip-flopper charges and were not inclined going into last night to feel they could trust him with the presidency in a time of war, and succeed in refocusing the debate on Bush’s miserable record. This was my initial reaction before reading Josh Marshall’s similar take on it.
    Live by the image, die by the image. Kerry has always had substance and the merits of the arguments on his side. The question has always been whether he would be able to overcome the dynamics of American presidential elections, which place a premium on symbolism over substance. He made a giant stride in the direction of answering that question with a resounding “yes” last night.
    And they’ve now burned up the debate on their purported area of strength.
    Keep pouring it on, JK. Act like you’re 5 points down from here on out (who knows, maybe you are).

  68. scottso on

    After watching the debate last night, I had an interesting realization. The pre-debate pundit spin had been that Bush had a “small” or “solid” lead, and that all he had to do was do a satisfactory job to keep his office, whereas Kerry needed to land the proverbial knockout punch.
    In truth, however, even if you considered last night’s debate a draw (which most people apparently didn’t), if you felt that both men appeared firm and resolute (Kerry in criticism, Bush in defense), that ends up being a net plus for Kerry. This is because everyone in the country already knows GWB, but many people, including a huge number who are dissatisfied with GWB, are equally unsure about JFK. Thus, to have them both on stage, looking presidential and vowing to fight terrorists and get the job done in Iraq, should at minimum get a lot of people to say, “Yeah, OK, I could see voting for either of these guys.”
    In a sense, it is analogous to the fact that undecided voters go 2-to-1 for the challenger in the end.
    My prediction: a small — but measurable and significant — bump in the polls for Kerry, maybe 1-2%. Since Bush is only ahead by 2-3 points now (at least in the well-done polls), that should make the race a near draw.
    The limitation of Kerry’s “nearly-blow-it-and-then-close-like-hell” modus operandi, however, is that there may not be a whole lot more people to win over. If he doesn’t make further gains with the next 2 debates, then I fear we are in for a near-instant-replay of 2000 — Kerry will win PA by 2-4%, take IA and WI by the skin of his teeth, Bush will take OH by 2% or so, and then the whole election will come down to Hurricane Land. Not again!

  69. James Harvey on

    Think the instant polls confirm what I felt: Kerry won the debate, and he had a lot of help from Bush, who came across as weak and peevish. He was, as someone noted, the very essence of the Dubya caricature loathed by committed Democrats.
    Whenever Kerry is able to speak directly to the American people, he’s impressive. So the debate was very important in breaking through the Kerry portrait defined by Republican ads and right wing spin. Now it’s important to win the post-debate argument.
    Whenever Bush has to come out of his shell and defend his own record, the man’s shallowness is evident to all. His lack of substance in 2000 was galling but could be chalked up to inexperience. The only explanation now is laziness.
    My 90-year-old Irish mother in Philadelphia (who took out citizenship so she could vote in this election): “I didn’t want to watch. I thought Kerry would go around in circles and I’d be too upset to sleep. Kerry was terrific. He knew what he was talking about and Bush didn’t. He whipped Bush!”

  70. Patriotforkerry on

    Forget the desperate GOP spin about their guy not being a polished speaker, coming on strong later, the undecideds not being impressed, etc. The clear truth is that Bush was awful even by the low standards he is usually judged by.
    George Bush lost big time last night. Period.
    You can certainly see why Rove and company spend so much time stage managing the president anytime he goes anywhere near the public. Their strategy has always been to keep him under wraps and protect him because Dubya has no ability to handle himself on his owb. This is the first time the American people have seen this guy, live and unscripted, for 90 minutes since he became president and guess what? He was barely able to hang on. Unfortunately for Bush, there were no loyalty oaths for the members of the national television audience. How many times during those 90 minutes did he struggle to find words, seemingly on the verge of lapsing into incoherence? And when he did find the words, they were nothing more than meaningless slogans or phrases repeated over and over again. The president kept saying that America’s efforts in Iraq are “hard work” over and over and over again. “Hard work”? That’s all he can come up with? What does that tell you? He can’t even communicate the basic purposes and objectives of his administration own policies in a meaningful way. Does he even really understand his own policies? Bush’s performance was not exactly a confidence builder. And remember, foreign policy and national security are presumed to be his best areas.
    Except to the most strident Bush supporters, who are in denial anyways, in was painfully obvious that Bush was beaten handily by Kerry.
    As I have always said, this race is close and will ultimately be determined by the independents and undecideds who are unhappy with Bush but also unsure of Kerry. Bush’s negatives remain dangerously high with these folks and last night’s debate will do much to reinforce their negative perceptions of him. As much as Kerry gave these people reasons to vote for him last night, Bush gave them even more reasons to vote against him.
    In November Bush is toast.

  71. Dana on

    Although I think Kerry objective won the debate, I am hesitant to book my ticket to D.C. for the inauguration. Kerry did exactly what he had to do, and Bush appeared just unsure enough to (as Joe notes) make me eagerly await Bush’s attempts to defend the less palatable parts of his agenda. However, it is hard to tell what triviality might rise from the ashes and define these two men post-debate.
    Kerry has strong points to carry forward coming out of the debates, points that can cement his credibility as a leader. The question is whether the public will see them for what they are, or fall for the lazy rhetoric of “mixed messages.” Kerry has been consistent on Saddam Hussein, contrary to what Smooth and most GOP sources would have us believe (see “nuance”):
    1- Hussein was a threat, and he could not be left to his own devices.
    2- War was a real option for Kerry, but it was not his first or even second option.
    3- When Bush took us to war, he used false evidence to sell us on its necessity, and he went to war without making intelligent and full use of his nonmilitary options.
    4- In the meantime, Kerry can say the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, and still think there were better ways to get the job done without being inconsistent. (Analogy: if you want to replace your leather sofa with something different, and if I “help” the process by burning the old sofa in your living room, does that mean it would be flip-flopping to suggest maybe we could have sold the old sofa instead?)
    Kerry was smart to conclude by saying that being consistent and being wrong is not a good thing. Emerson put it another way: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” I realize that Kerry’s performance will not prevent the Smooths of the world from saying “flip-flopper” from now until either Election or Inauguration Day, but it will give the media and the public a positive and hopefully lasting taste of his true character.
    I realize I am getting far afield here for a blog devoted to polling data and its foibles. Thanks for reading this far.

  72. Dan Andrews on

    Kerry won on style and content. He looked better, he sounded better, he sounded more intelligent, and even more forceful.
    Bush looked like the guy we partisan democrats like to make fun of. He looked like in was in over his head, he looked weak, he looked lost.
    Kerry was Presidential, Bush was not.
    The media can spin all they want in the coming days, and right now it looks like they are unwilling to spin it too far Bush’s way, but millions of undecided voters were watching last night and they saw what we saw. GOOD JOB JOHN KERRY!

  73. pdb on

    I agree with the general consensus. Kerry looked presidential, maybe even candidatial to coin a term); Bush generally didn’t, but had a few good moments: his closing speech was well done, and he really surprised me by looking like he knew what he was talking about concerning the 6-party talks with North Korea. If I were Kerry I’d have come back with some defense of the proposed international criminal court. I think W’s position – that we shouldn’t put American servicemen and others under the jurisdiction of a foreign court – resonates with a lot of people, and I would have liked to see some statement to the effect that if we are going to try to impose law and order in the world we should not hold ourselves above it….
    And it would have been nice – though I didn’t think of it till later so I can’t honestly say I’d have done it if I were Kerry – if he’d jumped on W’s little aside about “How’s he going to pay for that?” with “Well, if you’re going to follow Grover Norquist’s policy of shrinking the federal government as much as you can, starving it of resources, and not calling on the rich and the big corporations to pay their fair share, I don’t see how you’ll ever make America safe and secure.”
    Smooth Jazz: nice catch on Treblinka/Lubyanka. And as I’ve always thought Ford lost Ohio and Wisconsin (and the election) because of his Polish gaffe, W’s comeback on Kerry’s failure to mention Poland as an ally seemed a clever touch.
    But on the whole I give it to Kerry on both style and substance.

  74. susan on

    Kerry did come across as the more sober, thoughtful and prepared. He looked Presidential. Bush did not appear to have a strong command of the facts-he relied on his stump speech applause lines a little too much. Kerry used his too, but he was clearly much more comfortable with a substantive discussion of the issues while Bush seemed unprepared and looked weak when he repeatedly asked for rebuttal time and wasted it by defensively mouthing platitudes.
    There are two more of these coming. I think that can’t but help Kerry if the overall contrast between the two is as clearly drawn as it was last night.

  75. Clever Girl on

    Ah, but Smooth Jazz, note this…. the Gallup poll included 52% Bush supporters and 44% Kerry supporters. With the breakdown, Bush should have “won” the debate handily in the Gallup poll. Instead, Kerry came out on top by 9 points. This simply means that Kerry was the clear winner last night.

  76. joe on

    Smooth Jazz,
    Maybe. But this should give you pause – foreign policy is Bush’s strong suit; how do you think he’ll do when he has to defend deficits and job losses in the domestic policy debate? To me, it looks ominous for him.

  77. tony on

    The Pubbie’s arguments about Kerry have been about a straw man. Last night, they had to face Kerry, instead. And it sure looked good to me.
    I thought Kerry missed some obvious points where he could have gone for the jugular. But, as noted, he’s the one who looked and sounded like a president last night. Bush just kept repeating platitudes and looking nervous and peeved.
    It’s encouraging to see that Andrew Sullivan judged Kerry the winner, and cited several other source (I don’t have time to look now) who also did.
    At the minimum, this should go far towards neutralizing Bush’s lead on foreign affairs and set up Kerry for the domestic front.
    Thanks to the staff for the poll news. I look forward to coming back for more as it shows up.

  78. Big Dog on

    All this analysis of who said what when is almost meaningless unless what was said was something memorable.
    Kerry simply LOOKED better and more “presidential” — like the smartest guy in the room as someone here said.
    Look at Aaahrnold vs Gray Davis in Calif. Davis probably has twice the IQ of Aaahrnold, but has the personality and presence of wall paper paste.
    A 3rd rate actor looked and sounded more gubernatorial and got the job.
    Will the polls go further north now for Kerry?
    I predict they will.

  79. Larry on

    Yes, I’m a Kerry supporter, but I’m very conscious of public speaking and presentation, having spent so many years in business on my feet in front of groups and watching others do the same.
    Bush was just awful, looked and sounded like some high school boy at times or a 1st yr law student in his first moot court.
    We know both men had a menu of canned answers, but Kerry made his sound ex tempore.
    Will his “win” in the debate translate into votes?
    Hope so.

  80. Smooth Jazz on

    OK, I have to give it to you guys; Kerry appeared polished and President Bush, who I strongly support, appeared halting at first but came on very strong at the end. GWB NEVER claimed he was a polished speaker anywy. The problem for Kerry is that, on balance, platitudes and hyperbole doesn’t automatically make you credible with our armed forces and undecideds, perhaps the most critical constituencies in this election.
    Moreover, talking about some amorphous “global test” and flip flopping about Saddam (“WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN RID OF SADDAM BEFORE WE SHOULDN’T HAVE GOT RID OF SADDAM”) during the debate is not going to comfort undecideds in places like OH, PA & WIS who back a strong defense posture IMO. Confusing a Nazi death camp (Treblinka) with a prison in the former USSR (Lubyanka) didn’t come off well either.
    Notwitstanding all that, I saw on CNN that, even though Kerry won the debate according to USA Today/ Gallup, the same poll noted the following regarding undecideds after seeing the debates: 12% will support GWB, 10% will support Kerry, and the rest still undecided.
    So you can post all these instant polls all you want – If the USA Today/Gallup is any guide, Kerry didn’t win over too many undecideds and only lives to fight another day.

  81. coldeye on

    I was amazed. Kerry looked presidential. He used short, powerful phrases and he was clear. He projected mostly strength. He had one moment when I thought he looked arrogant, when he smiled and said “where do I start?” concerning Bush’s mistakes, but then he recovered smoothly.
    Bush looked likeable but lightweight. He looked a bit nervous. He used some vivid language and made some strong points, but his delivery was not as powerful as Kerry’s. There were some moments when he seemed slightly lost and confused.
    Overall, I would say Kerry made the better impression of strength and knowledge, by a solid though not huge margin.

  82. Clever Girl on

    One interesting statistic may be the breakdown of Kerry/Bush supporters who watched the debate. As I recall from the 2000 debates, whoever had the larger audience tended to “win” the debate. Kerry supporters should feel encouraged by his performance last night while Bush supporters much less so (he was rather grumpy). This perception should translate to Kerry’s advantage in later debates.

  83. C Ama on

    Bush looked furtive, defensive, small and yes, terrible.
    Kerry looked presidential. What’s more, he behaved like a president. He was sure and decisive. He was knowledgeable. This in itself was a blessing to see. I had almost forgotten what it was like to expect the president to be the smartest guy in the room. Wasn’t it wonderful to realize that when Kerry is president, we will have a chief executive and commander in chief who actually understands the challenges facing this country?
    I am more than hopeful. I am enthusiastic, not about the rest of this race, but about the next four years. Our short, national nightmare is almost over.
    C. Ama

  84. Tim on

    Have the polls picked up yet on how strong and clear John Kerry was? The contrast was astounding — George Bush looking weak and out of touch, and John Kerry in control of the facts and leveling powerful criticisms in a calm, presidential fashion. I think the polls will only get stronger as the reality sinks in that John Kerry is the only one who can get us out of this very deep hole George Bush put us in. Gallup will need a 90% Republican sample to hide Bush’s certain slide.

  85. Paul Cterrible!! on

    Besides winning, I’d like to see statistics regarding how many people saw Kerry in a favorable light. (Particularly among those who saw it as a tie.) Those are people who are likely to (1) already have an opinion of Bush and (2) after they think about it, decide to vote for Kerry,
    And by the way, didn’t Bush look TERRIBLE??!!


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