I didn't see or hear the debate. Instead, I read bloggers' reactions this morning. Here's what I found:
Instapundit's concensus reading is the Bush won by fighting to a draw. After the president's miserable performance in debate one, this makes some sense.
Andrew Sullivan called it a draw.
Dean's World reviewers took the president.
The Corner, though, is the interesting one. Based on the times of the posts, I'd say that Bush was miserable for first 40 minutes or so. Then something happened: either the president really picked it up, or The Corner's bloggers decided that they better talk up Bush or face four years of President Jean Francois Kerry. I don't want to cast aspersions, but I suspect the latter.
Don't Trust Your Eyes
In case you're wondering why I chose to rely on others' views of the debate instead of watching and judging myself, I'll explain.
First, I already know who I'm voting for, so it wouldn't matter to me if George Bush walked on stage with his pants around his ankle singing L'Internationale. I'd still vote a straight Republican ticket.
Second, I am always hypercritical of my guy or gal. I thought Reagan lost to Carter and Mondale, I thought Bush lost to Dukakis, I thought Bush lost to Clinton (and I was right), I thought Dole lost to Clinton (and I was right again). I did think Bush topped Gore in all debates in 2000, but Gore is insane--anyone would have beaten him. So, had I watched the debate, I'd have sat cringing at Bush's every word and been depressed for hours.
Third, in determining the effect of the debate on the election, my opinion of Bush's performance vis a vis Kerry is meaningless. The winner, as Scrappleface pointed out, is not determined by the people who watch the debate, but by what the talking heads tell the undecideds to think. Therefore, how the pundits scored the fight is what the masses will believe.
On this measure, Bush won--big time.
Kerry's “Read My Lips” moment will dog him for the next 3 days. Bush's “Need Wood” could be a campaign button for the uber-male theme the Bush campaign already commands. Bush's humor worked, Kerry's flopped. Bush's body language was presidential, while Kerry's was prosecutorial. Bush wanted to hug the audience, while Kerry wanted to help them. Apparently, at one point, Kerry said that no one in the room looked like they made $200,000 a year. What self-important buffoon. He might as well have said, “I'm glad you people had the opportunity to see the inside of Washington University--since none of you could get admitted to such a fine establishement of higher learning.”