In sifting through the debate reactions, I'm getting the sense that President Bush did better on television than on the radio. So perhaps it wasn't as bad as I had feared.
Still, I have to wonder about anyone claiming that this debate was a "clear victory" or a "home run" for Bush. As a conservative, while Bush is not all that conservative on a number of important issues, I'm much more generally sympathetic to him than to Kerry.
And perhaps Bush was right on the merits on many of these questions. But style counts for something in these debates. As I argued yesterday, those who want to hand the debate to Bush on substance alone are largely missing the point.
In a debate, you have to make an argument, defend it, and counter the other guy. Bush's effort on that score was mediocre at best. Kerry lobbed some huge charges out there (i.e. "outsourced the hunt for Osama Bin Laden to Afghan warlords") that Bush never even attempted to counter. At some point in a debate you have to respond to the other guy's charges in order to win. Bush didn't do that.
If you think that Bush has the right positions on the issues overall, great. That's the basis on which we all ought to cast our votes. But if one were to say that Bush rolled over Kerry last night, or that the debate was somehow a disaster for Kerry, I'd have to begin wondering if that person's partisanship was clouding his senses of sight and hearing.