Defecits, Defense - Debate a Draw?
It's a bit of a shame Kerry couldn't deliver the killer blow, but unfortunately Bush seems to have got his game a little bit back on track. The first poll, the results of which were released by ABC news 25 minutes after the debate hit, showed Kerry judged the winner by just a one percent margin.
Yet in one crusical swing-state, Arizona, with 10 electoral college votes and where the debate was held, it looks like the Democrat challenger may have gone down quite well. Plus a later poll for USA Today and CNN, gave the debate to Kerry by a margin of 16% - nearly as much as his sweeping victory in the first, so there is hope. But he really needs to pull Ohio (20 votes) and Florida (27 votes) out of the bag - at the last polling they were respectively split 51:43 and 49:45 in Bush's favour.
Kerry's laudable aims to increase healthcare provision and produce extra money by raising taxes on the super-rich were, predictably if somewhat unjustly, criticised by the President for being "far-left". Quite how trying to prevent people dying and asking people who have managed to make the most of the "American Dream" to put a little more back to give others a break counts as "far-left" I'm not entirely sure. But then we are talking about a country in which being "liberal" is somehow a bad thing...
Kerry also had some good soundbites: "Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order," and had a nice crack about the sticky issue of his wife's fortune, which seemed to go down quite well.
Is America finally warming to him? Can he shake off his stuffy, boring image in time and convince the voters that it's better to have an intelligent, dignified man with whom the world can work coupled with one of the best trial lawyers America has produced in a decade running their country rather than a recovering alcoholic and big business crony?
We'll have to wait and see, as we will have to wait and see how Bill Clinton's return to the fray might affect the result. His hands-off approach in 2000 seemed sensible, post-Lewinsky, but Kerry isn't sullied by that particular incident so Clinton's early low-profile (and post-heart op forced low profile) may not have been the best thing for the Democrats this time around. Picking up on Clinton's previous Bush-beating line of "It's the economy, stupid" could well work, and having the charisma of the 42nd President behind the campaign in the final stages may yet work wonders...
Fingers crossed, eh?
The full transcript can be found here (NYT reg required), along with video of key exchanges. Main quotes from the two candidates can be found here.