I guess Bush exceeded the expectations - he did not start a fist-fight - so I am assuming pundits will say he won.
I watched closely and realized that it did not matter who got to answer the question first and who second. The contrast was stark. Senator Kerry deflected all misunderstandings about his record that the public may have had due to advertising and the pliant press. This did not just clear up Kerry's stances, but at the same time exposed Bush's dishonesty. He could have, but did not need to, address every single attack - that would have sounded too defensive. Let it slide with a smile.
On non-substantive aspects of the debate, that the chattering classes like so much, I also think Kerry won. Bush cracked a couple of sophomoric jokes, even winked twice, rudely interrupted Gibson a couple of times, and in general appeared like a teenage cowboy. Kerry was relaxed, he smiled, and was polite, yet retained his gravitas and appeared much more presidential. On substance, something the media don't pay much attention to, I also believe Kerry won on every question. I was particularly impressed with his responses to questions on the Supreme Court, drug re-importation, taxes, and stem-cell research. The weakness: response to tort-reform/trial lawyers question. He should have defended Edwards better - Edwards has earned it, if nothing else.
Qoute of the Day: "We were safer before this Administration took office" (Kerry)
Kerry's absolutely greatest moment was the response to the environmental question. Apart from exposing the Administration's (and Frank Luntz's) Orwellian language, he also showed the audience the big picture, something one (like Lakoff) may call a global strategic initiative, how alternative energy sources put together improvements in environment, education, jobs, energy and foreign policy. Way to go! I hope he puts it even more forcefully next week.After three debates, I guess the rule applies: three strikes and out! The Bush/Cheney team has just lost the election.
Last week pundits called Edwards vs. Cheney a draw. By next morning it was a slim Edwards win, two days later, after all the newspapers, blogs and factcheckers chimed in, it was an Edwards blast. Why is Edwards on TV three times a day this weekend while Cheney is back in his undisclosed location? It will be the same with this debate. Look at the online polls. Go check the blogs later tonight, and check the papers tomorrow. You'll see who won by Monday and it will be Kerry! Big Time!!!!
Oh, by the way, how many Internets does Bush think there are?