Final Thoughts

I think Cheney won tonight – but he didn’t mop the floor with Edwards, or clean his clock, whup his hide, yank his chain, ream his butt, smoke his Honda, ennoble his leprechaun – whatever.

Cheney pretty clearly won on points. Three zingers stand out: The “first time I’ve met you” line; the “how can you stand up to al Qaeda?” zinger; and “Senator Gone.” Not one thing Edwards said stuck in my mind at all.

On style, I’m in no position to judge. I like Cheney’s smart/mean/classy trifecta, and I even dig his “do I really have to explain that I have a heart problem?” demeanor. Trial-lawyer smooth grates on me. So, yeah, I preferred Cheney’s style, but I honestly have no clue which guy came off better to the broader public.

Yet Edwards didn’t lose his cool, kept to his talking points (even if he did so a little too much), and was occasionally downright charming. Much as I like Cheney, he’ll never be conventionally suave. Frankly, though, Edwards’s losing performance was about on par with Bush in a winning debate.

Aside from points, Cheney won, in my mind, by reminding me what he brings to the Republican ticket – while Edwards lost because he reminded me exactly what he doesn’t add to the Democratic ticket.

Cheney, with all his immediate grasp of facts and ability to make an argument, tells me that there’s at least one person on the Republican ballot who thinks deep. And does so easily and naturally. Quite simply, he makes me feel more comfortable voting for a President I’ve never been comfortable with.

And what does Edwards add to Kerry’s so-slick-I-ought-to-be-a-crime top half of the ticket? Why, just more of the same. Forget balance – I see two hucksters who don’t represent much more than themselves. Although in all fairness, I think Edwards suffers from a lot less of that than Kerry. A Lieberman-Edwards ticket is one I could vote for. Lieberman is a hawk; having a Democratic president would put a curb on our drunken-sailor Republican Congress; and Edwards would give Lieberman the slickness poor Joe so seriously lacks.

But I don’t get to vote for a fantasy ticket; I have to choose between the candidates selected for me.

So Edwards did just fine, but Cheney did better. Will it affect the polls? Maybe, but not nearly as much as the three Presidential Debates will.

It’s been a tight race all along. I don’t think anything we saw tonight will change that.

UPDATE: Frank Martin, who should be getting way more traffic than I do, sums things up nicely, cynically, and perfectly.

UPDATE: More Godfather references!

UPDATE: At least one blogger see-saw a draw.

UPDATE: Pejman has a link-filled analysis of key bits of the debate transcript.

UPDATE: The American Mind’s fair-minded Sean Hackbarth also calls it a draw. UPDATE: My bad – Sean gave Cheney a slight edge.