The more I think about it. Kerry’s biggest wins were all secondary or passive. He didn’t lose. He didn’t cost himself the election. He scored better points on style. But the next day it’s hard to remember much of the style. I think his biggest victory was giving his troops hope. Remember that “enthusiasm gap”? Kerry’s supporters were increasingly resigned to the fact that there was no real reason to like their guy — only to hate his opponent. This through the dogs a bone — and the media too, which desperately wanted something new and nice to say about Kerry.
But as for Bush, he was right on more of the substance and that comes through in your memory. If you asked me their differences today based on the debate, I’d say “Bush wants to be offense; Kerry wants summits.” Kery’s answers had no logical consistency, and while logical consistency is overrated in these debates, Kerry needed to show more conviction than he did to change the race. And, I think the sound bites this week will probably reinforce that.