City of Roses
Kerry wins Round One, and I'm not saying that just because I'm voting for him November 2nd, but because I really felt it.
Why Kerry Won
Going into this debate, Kerry was clearly an underdog to Bush. On the issue of the war on terror, Iraq and foreign policy, some polls have shown Bush has a 30-point lead over Kerry, Most polls even show Bush leading Kerry by a 2-to-1 margin on who they believe would be a better commander-in-chief.
Bush could have easily crushed Kerry using his "various positions on Iraq" strategy, relentlessly onslaughting Kerry on his so-called "flip-flopping". Bush possibly could have put this election away by arguing Kerry had no clear position on Iraq.
Instead, Kerry came out strong, particularly convincing, and revealed that there are two distinct arguments on the war in Iraq.
Judging by the video caps, you could tell Kerry was psyched, happy to be in Miami and to debate the issues, Bush, on the other hand, looked like he didn't want to be there, he acted impatient and peeved. When Bush looked flustered and angry on camera, Kerry managed to keep discipline by penning something down or giving the occasional grin.
Kerry clearly did his homework, regardless of how factual or non-factual his research was. He had flavor in his arguments, using data from the FBI/120,000 hours of unviewed al-Qaeda tape, to Bush's father and deciding not to invade Iraq, to his opinion on the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, he was concise and open enough to understand. His arguments had meat, but he made sure they were arguments the audience could relate to. He wasn't overly wordy or grandiose, he got his message across.
Bush, on the other hand, was monotonous and underprepared. Eleven times during the evening he said "It's hard work!". That can certainly explain a lot. So can saying "mixed messages" on and on without re-inforcing the examples. Bush mentioned the $87 billion controversy once, which Kerry clearly found an isthmus through and at the same time used the controversy against Bush in argument, when saying misleading is worse than a mistake of phrasing like that.
Bush was inarticulate. He had long breaks between responses, sometimes as much as five seconds. Even on thirty second rebuttals, when it seemed he was determined to say something, he stumbled and showed he actually had nothing to say. He was like an impatient school boy who wanted to get attention.
Even Bush's general strengths worked against him Thursday night. he is known for being generally likeable, simple, and having a next-door-neighbor type of personality, one you can easily relate to. But the monotony of saying phrases like "I believe in freedom" or "I believe Iraq wants to be free" proved him all too stoppable. He talked in circles, his language was bland, and, essentially, a bore after the first thirty minutes especially.
On top of it all, the lighting system, which would seem to benefit Bush more than Kerry due to Kerry's tendency to speak for long intervals, actually benefitted Kerry more than Bush. Kerry was able to understand how to contain his message in a time limit, while Bush sometimes ran out of things to say when it was still a green or yellow light, sometimes he'd pause and keep talking when the red light was blinking.
Kerry's debate wasn't without its flaws, however. There remain some moth-holes on his stance on Iraq, which he will still have to cope with. With that said, Bush will likely remain on top in the polls going into the next debates. However, Kerry can close in the gap in this race and is clearly campaigning like a contender again.
Bush gets credit for having a small edge as far as likeability following the debate in a poll. Despite faltering, it wasn't a knockout punch on Bush last night, merely just a round he lost. However, Kerry may have gained likeability from this, another positive indicator for the Kerry campaign.
In the end, Kerry was unarguably the winner. Kerry was able to rise above the mass adversity he was facing entering the debate, while Bush seemed to be left debating himself.
"You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come back home" MB20