You know the debate went badly for Bush when even his most ardent supporters are unwilling to make the claim that he won.
I guess the fallback position when you know your candidate lost is to claim that it was a tie. That is the argument that Beldar and Owen at Boots & Sabers gamely try to make.
Daily Kos also has a long list of conservative bloggers who admit that their guy pretty much blew it.
The insta-polls all support what should have been obvious to anybody watching the debate last night. Kerry won the debate hands down and not because he turned in a spectacular performance. He did as well as I would have expected for someone with his background and experience. It was the awful performance by Bush that clearly made the difference.
Bush looked like a malfunctioning automaton at Disneyworld, repeating the same stock phrases over and over again.
I mean, what can you make of a statement like this...
“In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly hard.
It's-and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work.
We're making progress. It is hard work.
You know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed the troops in harm's way...”
As one snarky blogger noted in response: "Thinking and speaking is hard work Jim, very hard work, hard, hard, hard work."
Bush kept harping on Kerry’s statement that Iraq is the “wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.” I thought Kerry answered the charge well the first of the 15 times Bush said it, but what I really wanted to hear Kerry say - and he was obviously too polite to do so - was ask what message it sends to our troops to have their commander-in-chief stand up and taunt the enemy by telling them to “Bring it on!” That was perhaps the most irresponsible and regrettable statement ever made by a U.S. president.
I thought one of Kerry’s best lines was when he said that his message for the troops is that “Help is on the way.” Bush’s arrogance and his diplomatic incompetence has placed 90 percent of the burden of reforming post-war Iraq on the U.S. Kerry is our best hope for changing that imbalance.
The media pundits are all claiming that there was no major gaffe during the debate and thus no knockout punch, which I assume is defined today as Lloyd Bentsen decimating Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debates. But my impression is that Bush’s weak performance was the equivalent of one big long gaffe. To have a sitting president who can’t seem to think on his feet and must constantly refer back to campaign slogans and catch phrases is at best embarrasing and at worst is scary.
The best review I have seen of the debate so far is from Tom Shales of the Washington Post.
John Kerry came off as more presidential than the president last night as the two candidates met for their first face-to-face debate, televised live on all the networks from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. President Bush did not appear to have a firm grasp on the major issues being discussed, opting instead for the repetition of sloganlike remarks and repeated attacks on his Democratic challenger.