Saturday, October 09, 2004

Post Debate Wrap-up

At the end of my debate live-blogging last night, I promised to give my final thoughts "after a break."

And by "after a break," of course I meant after hanging out smoking cigars (thanks Dave), talking with other bloggers, going home to bed, and being roused very early in the morning by a wife who was very much in the mood to cash in on the payback I owe her for being able to go-a-bloggin' like a bachelor last night so that I could watch the kids while she slept in. Fair deal, but I doubt I'm payed off with just this.

Thoughts about the debate last night before I poison my opinion by reading others...

Bush is back. He may be awkward, halting, and way too Texan at times. But that is actually a pretty effective package in some ways, when it seems spontaneous and genuine. And tonight it did. This was the Bush who beat Gore in last years' debates.

Kerry was overconfident, and didn't do as well this time. Not a huge difference from last time, but some subtle things. The camera (we watched C-Span most of the time) actually caught Kerry in a sneer at one point. Not sure that got much focus elsewhere. But overall Kerry struck me as hitting a few of the spots his supporters worried about initially, and which he avoided last debate: coming off a bit aristocratic and haughty in some moments. But by no means did Kerry tank. He was pretty good and effective, just not as much as last time.

Both candidates were more energetic this time. That might have turned some people off and others on. There was some anger. Some eagerness. And definintely some "work the room" instinct involved. But most of the nation was watching on television, not sitting in the room. You can take the candidate out of the fund-raiser, but you can't....

Anyway I woke up still thinking Bush got the best of the overall exchange. He did hit the "flip-flop" theme again, but didn't get stuck there like last time - something that Kerry almost seemed unprepared for in my opinion.

Any undecided voters who came away thinking Kerry had the better plan for the War on Terror are smoking something. Doesn't matter how much you dislike the war. Kerry seemed to bitch about the war, insult our allies, promise to cut and run, and still promise he'd follow the Bush plan all at once. If you heard it differently, that's because you want to hear it differently.

Domestically of course, Kerry was more coherent. That was simply a matter of traditional tax and spend liberalism, with a hefty dose of trying to fool-the-suckers that he was a tax-cutter. Much as I hate to admit it, that's good lefty electioneering. Voters love this stuff the way doe-eyed virgins love to be told you'll respect them in the morning (so I'm told).

Bush had some strong moments domestically. Particularly when he stood behind his tax cuts, and raised doubt about Kerry's tax-cutting sincerity. He was weak on pretty much everything else; sometimes due to idiotic "compassionate conservative" policy, sometimes due to rhetorical incoherence. I thought he'd have some good lines planned in alignment with his "opportunity society" stuff from the convention acceptance speech. If he did, they need a lot of polish, because I missed them entirely.

I was one of the few in our crowd after the debate who thought the media would call it a draw. I still think so, but am eager to run out and check. I personally think Bush was the better, but not by a large enough margin to get media acclaim.

On a personal note: BIG thanks to the hosts at the undisclosed location. Mitch has a roundup of those in attendance. Great food, great company, great conversation, and overall a terrific time. That was a big-time party-hosting tour de force.


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