Hugh Hewitt sounds awfully rah-rah in his pro-Bush recap of the debate, but he makes a great point:
Overall: Bush gets a big win, by hiting all his messages over and over again. He wins on substance. Biggest mistake by Kerry: “The Global Test.” Sorry, the American voters aren’t interested in passing any global tests. Bush stresses steadfastness and resolve. Kerry firmed up the hard-left vote, but you can’t win on this.
If that’s the soundbite that emerges from the debate (and whether or not it becomes The Moment is largely up to how well Bush’s team and the pro-Bush contigent of the new media controls the post-debate spin), then Hugh’s absolutely right.
Update: This line could also be a Kerry-killer if repeated.
Update: Orrin Judd declares the final score a draw–“Kerry on debating points, Bush on political”–and adds:
If part of John Kerry’s task tonight was to seem more likable, and that was not achieved, he also had to reassure his own party that he isn’t a complete disaster–and there he certainly succeeded, probably winning the debate in technical debating terms–and to try and clarify his muddled message. On that last he did not do himself much good, but it’s hard to see how he could have. His message tonight was: “The war was a mistake because Saddam wasn’t a threat but I voted for it because Saddam was a threat and though I disapprove of the war now, I’ll prosecute it just as vigorously as the President who believes in it wholeheartedly.” That just isn’t a coherent position but it’s one that he’s trapped in after voting for the war.
Last, on a series of issues he came across as soft in exactly the ways that Republicans have been portraying him. The idea that our policies should pass a global test, that al Qaeda will attack us because of Iraq so we shouldn’t have gone, that we should grant Kim Jong-il the bilateral talks he’s seeking, that we should give Iran nuclear material and that we shouldn’t develop the nuclear capacity to bust bunkers, even though Iran and North Korea are developing nukes, are all the kind of liberal pabulum that the GOP has been forcing back down Democrats throats for a quarter century now.
More on mining the debate for hidden gold–and plutonium–here.
Update: Another gaffe for Kerry, via Matt Drudge:
FLASH: Kerry stated: ‘That’s why they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention was there.’ (Driving home point that Bush as not done enough to protect the country.)
The NYC subway did not close at all during the convention, according to a report on cable outlet NY1…
Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt has some further thoughts.
Prediction: Sooner or later, the phrase “rope-a-dope” will be used to describe what Bush did to Kerry in the debate.