Wednesday, October 13, 2004
I have watched the second debate just in time to wait for the third, so I will comment on both.
The second debate has apparently been spun as a Kerry win. Substantively I think that's clearly accurate. But I was surprised by how well Bush did. I knew he had it in him :( He was consistently aggressive and kept his focus on Kerry's supposed flip-flops. I wish Kerry had responded more crisply to the 87 billion stuff, but I suppose he wanted to concentrate on Bush's record. Politically, I think it was a draw. I was worried that the press would spin that as a Bush win, so I would have been happy with a tie- a spin win is just gravy.
Having said all that, it turns out that Bush's angry performance turned off women. Perhaps I just didn't see that because I'm male. Where I thought Kerry was most effective was his response to the parental notification stuff at the end, when he decisively rebutted Bush's position and Bush just repeated what he had said earlier. And I agree with others that Bush flubbed the last question about making mistakes. Kerry also did a good job at empathizing with the audience. He's no Bill, but who is?
I never thought the town-hall debate was going to be critical. Frankly I don't expect it to have much more impact than the VP debate. It is this last debate is potentially decisive. Kerry has laid the groundwork by undermining Bush's position as a strong leader. Now he needs to seal the deal by explaining to people what he wants to do. Enter domestic policy. Kerry needs to do more than just attack Bush's record: he needs to speak in specific terms about what he wants to do. Health care, the economy, and the deficit are the key issues (the latter because it cuts into Bush's conservative base). It's fairly obvious what he needs to do, so I think he will.
Bush has the taller mountain to climb. He has little to show for his 4 years in office when it comes to domestic issues. His tax cuts have failed, the economy is weak, health care costs are rising, etc. I think it is a sign of desperation that the Republicans are returning to that "liberal, liberal, liberal" crap. Kerry will just respond with is his record (as he did in the first debate), and tie himself closely to the Clinton legacy. The tax & spend charge is tired. Kerry needs to rebut it more effectively, and call Bush on his lies from the first debate on domestic spending. But the fact that Bush has NOTHING positive to run on should be alarming to Rove & crew.
This is Bush's last chance. I think after tonight we will know who is going to win this election.