John – I have definitely had the same experience with word-of-mouth reactions. Lots of friends with liberal family members who aren’t beltway types, for example, all said Bush won. And most of these people dislike Bush and thought Bush was trounced in the first two. People I’ve talked to in Ohio and now California (where I’ve been travelling this week) mostly felt the same way. My email from readers who’ve canvassed their liberal spouses often back that up (with heavy mentions of Mary Cheney and Kerry’s ode to his mom as examples). Who knows if this can withstand the media reaction to the “Who won the debate?” tracking polls but as I argued in my column I think lots of people said “Sure, Kerry won the debate, but I like Bush more” after the final debate.
That’s why I’m so psyched about the Zogby tracking poll — though it would be nice to hear about others. From the partisan pro Kerry crowd I received a fairly brutal deluge of email saying I was fool for writing this:
Here’s my meager prediction: The polls will show Bush “lost” the debate, but the polls will also show Bush gained ground because of it.