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Politics: October 1, 2004

First Debate Round-Up Favors Kerry

Here is a wrap-up of the Bush-Kerry debate from various sources (including a few liberals). My opinion is that Kerry won style and presentation while Bush won substance. Since perception is the key to marketing it would be hard not to give the debate to Kerry. However, the public may need a few days for an opinion to stabilize and become static. On content Kerry provided more material that will hurt him in the long-term (such as "global tests"). Overall, the blogs I sampled (even the conservative ones) seemed to favor Kerry short-term and Bush long-term. It appears the evening went to Kerry but the election is still Bush's to lose. (Update: I should have mentioned this in my original post - I found laughable Kerry's insistence that he has always had one position on Iraq. This is a classic example of proof by assertion.)

Debate Round-Up (transcript)


Wall Street Journal (New): "If previous debates are any guide, it may take a couple of days for the conventional wisdom to emerge on whether the winner was President Bush or Sen. John Kerry -- and how the night will shape the rest of their campaign for the White House. " [provides an excellent survey of news and bloggers]

ABC News: More Viewers Say Kerry Won Debate, But Voter Preferences Remain the Same

CBS News: A post-debate poll of uncommitted voters conducted for CBS News gave Kerry the edge. Experts rate the debate a draw.

Drudge: Bush inner circle suggests Bush visit with Hurricane victims earlier in day was emotionally draining, contributed to "tired" appearance in debate

CNN: Self-serving oversimplifications marked the first presidential debate as Bush and Kerry made their case on Iraq and the broad canvas of foreign policy.

Fox News: Both Campaigns Claim Win; Polls Favor Kerry

MSNBC: Sen. John Kerry assailed President Bush’s prosecution of the war in Iraq in the first presidential debate Thursday night, accusing the president of “a colossal error of judgment” as the candidates finally faced each other after a torrent of speeches and hostile television advertisements.

Sen. John McCain: thought that John Kerry did a good job style-wise. I think that the president was very convincing in his conviction that what he has done is right, what he will do is correct," McCain said on "Larry King Live." New from Reuters: But McCain said Bush could attack Kerry on his call for a summit on Iraq and for renewing bilateral talks with North Korea. Neither was the solution, McCain said. "Summits don't make peace ... Nobody believes the French and the Germans will come to help," McCain said

Conservative Leaning Blogs

BeldarBlog: Neither candidate screwed up. Kerry needed a Bush screwup, a huge gaffe, to change the dynamics of the race, and it didn't happen. Thus in the big picture, Bush won. That's true regardless of whether you grade Bush with a "B" and Kerry a "B+" or vice versa. Both candidates crossed the finish line standing; and I think that means Bush will win the election, regardless of how you may "score" this debate on "points" and in isolation. . . . I think Sen. Kerry was at his very best tonight — much better than he was in any of the Democratic primary debates, and in the perfect, very formal and isolated-from-humanity environment to show off his strengths to their best advantage.

Blogs4Bush: I score it a tie on substance -- Bush performed better in the 1st half, Kerry in the 2nd half. But this was an overall win for Bush because absent a credible plan from Kerry on Iraq, he is not fit to be Commander-In-Chief.

Joe Lockhart: The consensus is it was a draw.

Hugh Hewitt: Bush gets a big win, by hitting all his messages over and over again. He wins on substance. Biggest mistake by Kerry: "The Global Test." Sorry, the American voters aren't interested in passing any global tests. Bush stresses steadfastness and resolve. Kerry firmed up the hard-left vote, but you can't win on this. [excellent summary table as well]

IntheBullPen: Bush controlled the debate when it mattered at the end and this should be the what is remembered by American voters. In Bush’s closing argument, he hounded Kerry on Kerry’s comment that a preemptive strike would have to be approved by the world. As I have not seen a transcript of tonight and going strictly off of memory, I’m not 100 percent positive Kerry said this. By Bush insisting his opponent did say this along with Kerry’s previous statements concerning similar things, Bush drove the point home that will resonate with the American public that he will not put America’s security in front of other nations while Kerry will.

INDC: Effective draw. Kerry did very well, slightly better than Bush - but Bush also turned out a workmanlike performance on his most passionate issues, and I don't think that this exchange will have a massive impact on the electorate either way. Kerry beat Bush in terms of aesthetics, which is suprising.

JustOneMinute: You Can't Run On Third And Long. Kerry needed a big win in the debate tonight, and didn't get it

Poliblogger: I think that on substance that it was something of a tie. The lack of major gaffes or memorable sound bites also means it was somewhat dull. Given that the expectation was that this was Bush’s area of expertise, and therefore a chance to knock Kerry out, some will argue that since Kerry didn’t lose, he therefore won.

Powerline: I've taken more than an hour to try to talk myself out of concluding that John Kerry won tonight's debate. I haven't succeeded. Senator Kerry, I think, edged President Bush on substance and, surprisingly, looked better throughout. ... The key for Kerry tonight was to hide his long history of opposition to a strong, proactive defense. I think he did a pretty good job of this

Evangelical Outpost: To my surprise, Bush did worse than I had expected. He wasn’t nearly as skilled and polished as he was when he faced Gore in 2000. Fortunately, he had the better message. Kerry’s position may have won the crowd over at a forensics contest but in the real world we want assurances that the President has a plan and a conviction. [ed. the post has interesting remarks on "format" and style.]

Neophyte Pundit: My first impression of the debate: Kerry won on technical merits, but the President held his own. The closing statement by the President, as he spoke about Freedom and Liberty, was his strongest moment, and probably the deal closer. There were no serious gaffes, nor were there any "sound bites" to be held against the other candidate. Let the spin begin...

Instapundit: Both closing statements were pretty good. Overall, while neither of these guys is an especially good orator (or maybe because neither is an especially good orator) it was a more substantive debate than I had expected.

Polipundit: You want a winner? Short-term, like now and tomorrow, Kerry won. But I don’t think it will last. Kerry didn’t do what he needed to, here. He needed to answer the hard questions, and instead, he ducked them, hiding behind general accusations against Bush, but not saying what he would do different.

NewRepublicans: Well, if I'm generous, then Bush stuck to his talking points. As a former debater, however, I am tempted to say that Bush missed many, many, many chances to really make key points against Kerry. It seemed as if Bush didn't want to go for the jugular. I don't know why.

AllahPundit: Has a lot more.

Liberal Leaning

DailyKos: The split-screen isn't flattering to Bush, with the eye-rolling, angry looks, mouth-smacking... And Kerry is wiping the floor with Bush. ... Was it me, or was Bush on the defensive the entire debate? He could lip-smack, smirk, roll his eyes, blink like crazy, and look angry all he wanted, fact is, he has screwed things up and he was livid that he had to account for his mess.

Andrew Sullivan: Kerry has to gain, I think. At the very least, this was a draw on the president's most favorable turf.

John Kerry's Blog: CNN / GALLUP POLL ON WHO WON DEBATE - Kerry: 53 Bush: 37

Washington Monthly: A CBS poll of uncommitted voters shows Kerry winning 43%-28%.


La Shawn Barber disagrees ... I like it. "To my ears, Kerry sounded pompous and condescending, especially when he talked about the troops and our allies. And the context in which he used the word “global", unnerved me. Unlike Bush, Kerry is the kind of man who’d put America’s national security in the hands of globalists. Only a raging leftist would think that’s a good thing, people."

More from Blogs4Bush: I really believe that George W. Bush took this debate easily. Kerry may have outperformed himself, but he did not outperform our President. ... John Kerry showed us who is really is: a 9/10 Democrat lost in a post 9/11 world. He wants to protect America if it "passes the global test." Bush on the other hand has the attitude that "you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure." Bush won the debate with that line alone.

Captain's Quarters: It's not too often that one finds editorial agreement between the two DC papers, the Post and the Times, but both papers called last night's debate a draw.

Joshua Claybourn has an excellent recap concluding, "Clearly I think Kerry had the better performance, but it remains to be seen if that will translate into any sort of significant support. "

The TruthLaidBear states, "I still think the questions were biased, essentially focusing on Bush's record and ignoring Kerry's." He has posted a good (and unique) analysis of the questions.

Kerry seen as the winner around the world (Associated Press)

BlogsforBush linked to me. Thanks. Here's part of the post: Truth be told, Kerry exceeded expectations, but when it came to substance, he came up short.... Since 1984, no Republican has won in the flash polls from the first debate, but has won 3 out of 5 of those elections.

Bush Won! by Adam Yoshida - three fundamental and large errors give the victory ot Bush.

Post-Debate Thoughts on Kerry and the Global Test . . .

Posted by tim at October 1, 2004 12:10 AM

Articles Related to Politics:


Excellent round up of opinion. You make it easy for the rest of us.

I believe that it was a draw in the debate though Mr. Bush failed to seize the initiative. The knock out blow that many predicted simply did not come to pass. Kerry may gain slightly but debates are forgotten on election day.

Posted by: J Thomas Lowry at October 1, 2004 6:24 AM

Thanks for the link, and feel free to correct the typo:

"...in the hands OF globalists."

I left out "of" there.

Posted by: La Shawn at October 1, 2004 8:53 AM


Posted by: tim at October 1, 2004 9:24 AM

Good roundup

Posted by: Joshua Claybourn at October 1, 2004 9:29 AM

Sometimes I think it was a draw, then I remember some of the (unpresidential) expressions on Bush's face, and then I think about rehashing of Kerry's FlipFlops (why would the lack of a person's record or character NOT be a major factor), and then I think it was a draw and then I remember...

Posted by: Glen B at October 1, 2004 10:26 AM


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