Thursday, September 30, 2004

The First Debate

Watched it start to finish. And while I had a couple glasses of wine during the debate, I can't count myself among the "drunk-bloggers," unlike my new personal hero Steven Green.

But I do want to blurt out my own impressions before I surf around and find out what everyone else is saying about it.

For the record, my prediction was wrong. Kerry didn't try anything unconventional - and in fact after tonight I get the sense that he doesn't have that sort of thing in him. I suppose the only reason I assumed he would was because Al Gore, who also didn't seem to have that sort of thing in him, pulled it in 2000. Another lesson in why one time anecdotes make bad predictors.

While watching the debate I kept waiting for either side to break the mood and go after ... something. Either the other candidate, or a theme, or Jim Lehrer's hair-style. But it never happened. Both sides seemed to share the belief that staying focused and high-toned was to their benefit. And the candidates seemed relentlessly focused on that above all else.

Kerry definitely impressed me. I've never seen him debate before, but I had heard from others that he was a skilled debator in the real sense, unlike the over-billed Al Gore (and yes I know this wasn't a REAL debate, but a lot of those skills still apply). The only failing grades I'd give him are for some of the actual positions he chose. His presentation was excellent. Now we get to see how well the Bush camp can spin the ground he chose to stand on.

Bush wasn't as polished, but that's pretty well established about him by now, so unlikely to hurt him. He had no great gaffes. But also offered little more than reassurance that he was not going to change. There were opportunities for him to reach into some of the effective rhetoric of the convention, but I don't think he did in any effective way.

In any case, both candidates have clearly decided where they think the other guy is weak. Kerry thinks Bush is weak for invading Iraq. Bush thinks Kerry is weak on being inconsistent. If either of these comes as a shock to you, welcome back awake from however long your obviously extended coma was.

I think overall, I'd have to score this as a modest victory for Kerry. He had the most to lose tonight. A truly bad showing would have knocked him out of the race. The president knew this and didn't seem to even try to go for that knockout, so he loses on my scorecard.

In any case, I saw the brief scramble of the Fox News pundits to try to draw themes out of the race afterward. The right-leaning ones like the potential of going after Kerry's "global test" comment. The lefty thought Kerry's comment about attacking Saddam, when bin Laden was the one responsible for 9-11 was his big shot. Grasping at straws, if you ask me. Little change material one way or the other. But these guys get paid to find something, so they have to try.

And now.... off to read the live-bloggers. Starting with the drunk-blogging Vodkapundit.

Update:

My wife (I need to come up with some cute bloggy name for her here, but "Bogus wife" would get me in trouble) just came in to tell me why she left the room early in the debate. She was very tired, and found herself starting to laugh every time the president said the word "duty." She was having a Beavis & Butthead moment - "He said doodee. Heh! Heh-heh! Heh!" Vodkapundit uses martinis; she uses sleep deprivation.

Update 2: David Strom offers the best play-by-play of the debate I've seen so far.

Update 3: Varifrank offers the best paen to general civic acceptance of election results tonight. Would that this were unnecessary,but it is.

1 Comments:

Blogger David said...

Thanks for the link!

Great analysis. I do think the substantive disagreement between them does have an impact: multilateralism/UN vs. Go it alone, play-to-win. I think the Bush team will make gains from this if they focus on Kerry's UN fetish.

Great analysis. Great blog! We'll have to have you over next time!

12:17 AM  

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