First impressions on the debate:
1. Kerry was a better speaker tonight.
2. Kerry stated that he would do a better job but failed to substantiate on ANY point. His major claim seemed to be "I have better credibility" and "I would do it better" [I just can't tell you how.]
3. The President didn't take advantage of several openings:
- Kerry's cheap, cheap shot on bin Laden in Tora Bora and how we "outsourced" it to Afghan warlords. twice. beneath contempt and should have been taken to task on it
- second cheapest shot: I was on line at the airport and two reservists said to me "we need you". completely unverifiable just like his foreign leaders prefer him comment
- Kerry criticized a current program to research bunker-busting nuclear bombs - yet ANOTHER weapons system he doesn't like
- Taken Kerry to task on exactly who else he would have brought in an alliance to do Iraq 'the right way' - "we could asked them what they wanted"
- Kerry took a swipe with "backdoor draft" but then said he would add two more active-duty divisions. How?
- Kerry mentioned his four point plan on his website - which is the same as what we are currently doing
4. Bush scored well in:
- defending multilateral talks in Korea and how we are engaging the Far East in North Korea
- very persuasive in getting across why the message to soldiers, allies and enemies must be consistent and clear
- responding to Kerry's accusation that we were anti-international by citing why for instance he refused to join the International Criminal Court -- he should have linked it strongly to how Kerry's support for the ICC and his "I won't cede any right to use force" are totally inconsistent.
Overall, a draw, though polls will give Kerry a win on style. Bush could have won this one going away (and crushed Kerry for good) if he hammered on Kerry's mistakes. What the President needs to do is enumerate Kerry's mistakes and take him to task on them. I think we'll see a more proactive and aggressive Bush in the next two rounds.
The Kerry partisans will be happy but in the end his performance I believe will be insufficient to sway many voters. Kerry, when he is on, is a very good speaker. However, he's been savaged [rightly] on having nothing behind the words. He was exactly that tonight. He'll get the win on style but it won't mean many votes.
As a markets guy I am closely watching price action on www.intrade.com, a betting site that I cited in a post earlier today. At the moment it has Bush's odds of winning the election at 65/66, a bit lower than 68/69 earlier this afternoon which points to a perceived narrow Kerry win tonight. Why is this a very good indicator of performance? People are voting with their money and markets adjust almost instantaneously. Kerry spinmeisters will be screaming KO -- but that's not how the money is voting.