If I was scoring this as a debate coach, I guess I’d give it to Kerry. But the first rule of presidential debates is that that’s the last way to judge them. In the first half Bush was too defensive, I thought. In the second half I thought Bush gained on Kerry. On taxes, abortion and the environment I think Bush won to one extent or another.
But on the more important issue of who was the more likable guy, I think Bush had Kerry beat. The crowd, it seemed, like Bush a lot more. Not only did the crowd not laugh at Kerry’s jokes, but Kerry didn’t make any.
However, on the question of whether Bush did everything he needed to tonight, I don’t think so. I think he helped himself, but Kerry leaves these debates energized. If you think back to just ten days ago, Kerry was falling apart. That trend was turned around in the last debate and this one didn’t change that.