Having thought about things driving back to St. Cloud, flipping on the replay of O'Reilly
while clearing the email box and starting to think about my fantasy football lineup, and after the Bagelman's roundtable this AM:
- I was struck by O'Reilly asking Newt Gingrich what he would tell Kerry to do in the debate if he was advising Kerry. Gingrich said there were three points to be made by Kerry: the war in Iraq is distracting us from Iran and North Korea; that he could prosecute the war in Iraq smarter; and that we should use the U.N. to help. Those were exactly what Kerry did, and he did them well. My friends can caterwaul all they wish about sovereignty, and how Iraq is pivotal to the GWOT, but Kerry's job isn't to agree with Bush -- it's to provide an alternative. That he did. I do not believe it's a winner, but much of Kerry's base does and that's the hand Kerry has to play. He doesn't have another. So Jo may say Bush "squashed Kerry like a grape", but I think she'll concede that Kerry did not leave the stage looking like a man whose ass had been kicked. Kerry lost none of his base. His debate prep will not change for round 2.
- Mitch points out in his wrapup that wonks are likely to think Kerry won because he came across well. The Bagelmans crowd confirmed that impression for me, particularly a political scientist friend who happened by. She and a professional speaker both focused on Bush's clothing (not powerful enough, poor tie choice), speaking style (yeah, we know!), and his body lean ("he's short as it is!" -- I'm three inches shorter!)
- The bagel shop has two TVs showing Fox and CNN. CNN tv is closer -- flash poll says Kerry 53-Bush 37 for debate results. I express this as no surprise. Again, there's no Kerry supporter who watched the debate last night and thought "shoot, I'm voting for the wrong guy." But there will be Bush supporters that wish the President was a better debater, more polished, more articulate. I'd like to see a cross-tab of "who won the debate"/"who will you vote for". There will be a significant proportion of conservatives who think Kerry won on points but will still vote for Bush. Remember, when you play fantasy football, you can do well with a quarterback whose team loses a lot due to a bad defense. Your team's always behind, you're always passing, you rack up yards and a few TDs. (Hugh -- this is not an endorsement of the Browns.) Kerry will always score debate points, but elections ain't forensics. So on that the right-bloggers are correct that Bush did well by staying on his message.
- Kerry supporter observed Bush's fatigue in the middle of the debate, as I did. I said the debate should be 60 minutes rather than 90. He points out this was a topic on West Wing. I've never watched the show. I'm still puzzled why Lehrer didn't go farther afield on foreign policy. Was China mentioned once? Yes, but only in reference to North Korea. He waits for the last question to get to Russia. I'm biased as a guy who studies Eastern Europe, but I wanted much more. Nothing about Ukraine, whose major election occurs two days before ours. It has twice as many people as Iraq, and it could use a major infusion of democracy.
- I sent Rocketman an email last night about his chess analogy at the end of his liveblog. What I asked was, who does each candidate remind you of as a chess player, or alternatively, what openings would each play? The opening is often a look into the soul of a chess player, describing his style, his personality or his outlook on life. I joked to John that it looked like Bush was playing the French with the Black pieces. The French is a closed position, where what you are playing for is a positional advantage. Littlest Scholar has played it some, and I refer to her style as "the crab" for that reason; she's waiting for the other guy to make a mistake and keep a solid position herself, rather than playing boldly. Bobby Fischer was a Sicilian Defense guy, because it allows much more bold play on black, though it is a riskier defense. Bush likes to be a counterpuncher -- to push the chess analogy, he would play the Indian (which happens to be my favorite as well.) I think that is a mistake however. Bush said during the debate that "the best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense." Note to Bush: This is also the best way to protect your lead. Let the discussion roam as much as you can. Invite Kerry to make mistakes, as he is prone to do. Give 'im enough rope, and he'll look like this. Don't be a crab. Discourage Kerry's base, leave them every reason to stay home November 2. Be bold. Be strong.