There was one sentence that was uttered during the debate that nobody noticed, no pundit mentioned, yet I believe will be the key to Kerry's perceived success in the first debate. It is a phrase that will work on people subconsciously and will exert its influence even when everybody forgets every word uttered tonight. That phrase, spoken by Bush, is about his need to put his daughters "on the leash". You cringed when you heard it, then forgot it, perhaps concentrating on Iraq, or talking points, or body language, but that phrase will embed itself deep in your brain, and will decide how you feel about Bush as a person.
If you are generally subscribing to the liberal mindset (and your worldview is all about cooperation, equality, and respect), this phrase is offensive, almost medieval. What kind of modern man thinks and talks that way any more? Is he all about control and domination? Who is he to tell two grown WOMENwhat to do?
If you are predominantly conservative in your worldview (which is all about control, power and dominance) than Bush's phrase will tell you that he is not a Strict-Enough Father, that he does not have the strength even to control teh women and children in his life, so how is he to be expected to control the country and the world?
And Bush brought it to himself. Jenna and Barbara are a weak spot of the campaign anyway and they make the conservatives cringe. Their performance at the RNC was ridiculous and their events are tightly shielded (no press allowed). Why die he even mention them when they are such a handicap? Even worse, he mentioned them in the same sentence in which he metioned Kerry daughters, thus inviting a direct comparison. Silly, drunk, partying Jenna and Barbara versus sophisticated, intelligent, educated and eloquent Alexandra and Vanessa - daughters who are well brought up by a good father who "has learned not to do that".
Now you know why you feel that Kerry beat Bush tonight. Not so much substance or body language - but on values.