WRAPUP: Both closing statements were pretty good. Overall, while neither of these guys is an especially good orator (or maybe because neither is an especially good orator) it was a more substantive debate than I had expected.
Kerry was tougher than I had expected, which is good -- except that you never know what he'll say next time. If I hadn't been paying attention to the campaign, though, I'd be fairly impressed -- and Kerry has to hope that most people who watched the debate fall into that category. [LATER: Andrew Sullivan seems to agree with this take.]
Bush started off weak, got better as it went on, and finished well ("the transformative power of liberty"). Both did a pretty good job of sticking to issues and there weren't too many cheap rhetorical tricks. I don't think it'll change a lot of minds. But I have a very consistent track record of getting this stuff wrong (I thought Carter beat Reagan. . . .) so take my opinions with a large grain of salt.
Overall, a near draw, which translates to a win for Bush. Kerry started strong a few times then failed to move in for the kill. Unwilling or unable? . . . Both men seemed at a loss for words at times when I expected them not to be. Jitters?"