Beating the Point Spread

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In terms of both style and arguments, this one was much more even, with Bush probably ahead in the closing minutes, which is the part that sticks in people's heads (if they've sat through the whole thing). But in terms of both momentum and the expectations game, a draw is effectively a win for Bush. Kerry needed a decisive victory; we'll probably see Dubya regain at least part of the lead he'd lost after the first debate.

Postscript: Cato's David Boaz offers another perspective:

If Andrew Sullivan is right, which he might be, that people don't want to reelect Bush and are waiting to see if Kerry is ok, then I think a draw is a win for Kerry.

Maybe. I'm inclined to stick with the first interpretation because I figure that bounce—the sour-on-Bush swing voters concluding that Kerry was good enough to vote for—came from the first debate. Assuming those guys are the people in play, a performance that's relatively better for Bush or worse for Kerry should cut the other way.

NEXT: The Potter Stewart Standard

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  1. I’d be surprised if most can keep up with Kerry’s points. They’re overwhelming. He circles around issues, revealing every possible nuance…

  2. Bush was much better this time than last. Kerry was better with some of his comebacks. Bush missed many, for example, Kyoto. Kerry voted against the Kyoto treaty. Bush should have got him on that. I was very disappointed by Bush not answering the last question. If he would have admitted three mistakes and explained how he tried to fix them, he would have gained much, IMO. Kerry really showed his ignorance of economics. Bush was somewhat better, but you’d expect and MBA to get economics more than a lawyer.

  3. I’d be surprised if most can keep up with Kerry’s points. They’re overwhelming. He circles issues, revealing every possible nuance, which is fine during staff meetings. But I doubt the average voter can follow him…

  4. I disagree.

    Kerry made two big mistakes:

    1. When asked to look into the camera and pledge not to raise the taxes of people who make less than $200,000 a year, Kerry failed miserably.

    2. Regardless of which side of the abortion debate you fall on, Kerry’s response to the lady who didn’t want her tax money used to fund abortions was pathetic.

    It can be persuasively argued that Kerry was smart not to box himself into a Bush the Elder pitfall on taxes, but he’ll have to take failing to make that claim on the chin.

  5. ABC just put up their poll numbers, 41% bush, 44% kerry. So they call it for kerry. What the talking heads completely fail to mention is that there’s a 4.5% margin of error on the survey. With the margin being less than the difference, it’s a what?

    It’s a draw.

  6. Agreed on #2 (and I’m pro-choice) but I thought he did OK on the first one.

  7. I’m not sure a draw is a win for Bush. A draw is good for status quo. If Bush were ahead by 10 points, status quo is good. Tied it’s not. I think he had to knock Kerry back down and didn’t do it.

  8. I don’t think this debate will change many minds, unlike the first debate (at least if you can believe polls). Both were relatively competent (for politicians). I thought that about 90% of the questions were stupid, but what do you expect from this format. It’s like the stupid-ass “man-on-the-street” questions we’ve all seen on the local news. Why not have a panel of experts (spanning the polital spectrum)?

  9. No kidding. That one lady wasted her question when she asked for the three mistakes. Obviously neither is going to sit there and tell three mistakes they made….

  10. I think the beginning matters more than the end, because more people see the beginning.

    Kerry really pounded the snot out of Bush on Iraq at the beginning. Bush must have screwed up his talking points about having enough troops and a plan, because his “I remember being in the White House and having generals tell me…” gambit seemed to end up as him blaming his generals for his Iraq problems.

    The domestic policy portion seemed to be mostly about talking to the base. The only exception was the discussion of stem cells – the Democratic Party is so much more in line with popular sentiment on this issue that Kerry ended up seizing the center on a national issue as his opponent painted himself as an extremist. I don’t know if embryonic stem cell research moves any voters.

  11. E-Rock writes:
    With the margin being less than the difference, it’s a what?

    When the margin of error is 4.5 and the difference is 3, then it’s highly likely that Kerry really did do slightly better.

    Reinhold writes:
    That one lady wasted her question when she asked for the three mistakes.

    Dubya’s answer plays beautifully into the theory that he can’t fix the problems because he doesn’t want to admit they exist. If the lady was leaning toward Kerry, then she used her question quite effectively to highlight a flaw in Dubya.

  12. Three mistakes, oy vey. That’s one of those idiot job interview type questions, like ‘Can you tell us one of your faults?’ (Um, I go into a homicidal rage when someone asks me questions like that — anything else?)

    Three mistakes: appointing Paul O’Neil, and continuing the employment of George Tenet and Richard Clarke. Doubtless he was right not to enumerate them in a forum like this.

  13. people don’t want to reelect Bush and are waiting to see if Kerry is ok

    This has been the Democratic strategy/assumption from day one – that Bush was already as good as fired, so long as the Demmies put up an “electable” (read innocuous) alternative). Of course, as soon as they put this strategy into effect, Bush went into the lead, so I’m not so sure, personally.

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