Winner: John Kerry, for being the debating machine he is. There’s just no ruffling the guy.
Winner: George W. Bush, for at least looking like a real human being and a good “soundbite” performance.
Loser: Bob Shieffer, for running the least interesting, least structured, least fair, and probably least watched Presidential debate since the invention of the magic picture box.
Kerry played to the middle, in the hopes of swaying undecided voters. Bush played to energize his base. This late in the game, I think Bush’s strategy was the wiser one.
There aren’t many undecided voters left, so Kerry played to a smaller audience. Also, Kerry’s personality isn’t exactly geared to getting uncertain people to get serious about supporting him. Hell, he can hardly get Democrats excited about Kerry.
Bush needs to energize his base because, A) a lot of them are like me – ho-hum-at-best for him on everything but the war, and B) in a close race, turnout is key. I think Bush did well enough, but neither of these guys turned in anyting like a top-notch performance.
And a lot of that has to do with Bob Schieffer. The phrasing of his (long-winded) questions meandered. His refusal to keep the candidates on topic allowed them to meander, too. He gave Kerry too many lobs, and asked Bush too many questions verging on “Why are you killing old people with the flu?” Much as I thought the candidates sucked, Schieffer was worse. And a better performance by him would probably have forced the candidates to do better.
Jeff Jarvis wants more debates next time around. I’m all for that – so long as none of them are moderated by Schieffer.