I really do think Cheney won on the merits last night, politically by a little substantively by a lot.
However, I think the disparity between pro-Bush and anti-Bush pundits (there are so few pro-Kerry pundits it’s silly to create a category for them) might be partially explained by an interesting dynamic. Principled conservatives and principled liberals like their Veeps better than their presidents. I don’t think there’s a writer at Slate, Tapped, TNR or the Washington Monthly who wouldn’t prefer Edwards as the presidential nominee (and I think their debate analysis reflects this). In fact, I think many of them have said so. Similarly, I don’t think there are that many conservatives who don’t feel the same way about Bush-Cheney.
Both Cheney and Edwards, for good and ill, are simply better standard-bearers for the more pure strains of our respective philosophies. So, in a sense, it’s easier to score the presidential debates “honestly” than it is the veep debates.
Again, I really think I’m taking my biases into account when I say Cheney won, but I suspect that this dynamic affects both sides to one extent or another, myself included.