Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, October 08, 2004

Reactions to the Second Debate (Town Hall Meeting)

Hi Everyone,

For the first 30 minutes or so of the debate most of the questions were about foreign policy and especially Iraq. During these questions, Bush seemed combative and defensive. As he answered questions or responded to Kerry’s statements, Bush paced back and forth as close to the audience as could, aggressively gesturing all the while with his voice rising in volume and tightening in tone. He came off less likable in my opinion. Bush’s worst moment was when he sort of whined that with regard to Iran his administration was “doin’ just what he [Kerry] suggested.” This is the kind of thing that will continue to erode Bush’s advantage on foreign policy. In general, I thought Bush’s answers sounded more reasoned and intelligent than his answers from the first debate (although I disagree with him).

Bush did better in the second half of the debate when the questions turned to domestic issues. He made little jokes and he calmed down. However, the content was lacking. He made excuses for poor economic performance in some answers while in some answers persisting in asserting that things are going well. While his delivery was more easy going and classic “guy I want to have a beer with” style, I doubt people will buy it. It certainly wasn’t anything new substantively.

On judicial appointments, Bush stuck his neck out and said he would not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who would have voted for the Dread Scott decision. “That’s opinion, that’s not what the Constitution says. What we need are strict constructionists.” Law Talking Guy, would you please put the Dread Scott decision into a context of strict versus loose constructionists?

The Republican spin line is clearly going to be “you can run but you can’t hide” with regard to Kerry’s Senate record. Bush said it twice and the second time he said it, it sounded like he was waiting to spring it. It’s a little late in the game to start that up. If Bush gets acclaimed as the winner of this debate, it might get some traction. But in the even of a tie or a Kerry win, I doubt it will work.

Bottom line: I don't think either candidate did much to really dominate the other. Both had moments good and bad. I don't think this debate will change the dynamic of the race much. Since Kerry has the momentum at the moment, advantage Kerry.

1 comment:

US West said...

RBR, you sound like you are moderating a tennis match. Here is what cracks me up. The story is that Bush did better, not that he still "lost". Prime example of how the media keeps the bar just where Bush can reach it.

I say WHEHWWWWW to Kerry! I have a harder time than RBR being objective because it makes me so damn happy to see Bush getting challenged for once! And his composure was nearly lost. I think Kerry made some great zingers. He all but said that if there were flip floppers in the room, it would be Bush on his reasons for war. And I am glad he hit Bush on the tax gap and the back door draft. He came out well on the proliferation issue. Maybe I say that because I don't think the Bush administration would be able to negotiate his way out of a bucket if it had to. So this notion that we are working with allies on Iran is weak. It isn't that you are doing it; it's how well you are doing it. Just because you pick up the phone and talk up Chirac doesn't mean you are working diplomatically. So far, I've seen precious little that tells me 1) you are really working with anyone as a partner and 2) that other countries trust you enough to work with you.

I thought the questions these evening gave Kerry a great opportunity to be strong. But the time constraints make it hard to address any issue fully. And when you spend 15 seconds addressing the last question that you ran out of time to address before, it's even harder. I think Kerry had weak moments (I was really wanting stronger stories of abuses of the Patriot Act), but I think Bush just didn't deliver. I also think it helps Kerry that he can name off lists of Republicans (which oddly enough always include John McCain) who have called Bush out for his mistakes (and trust me, I am not missing the irony in the fact that democrats are proud to be supported by Republicans). And quoting Bush from 4 years ago is a nice touch.

This was supposed to be Bush's forum. He loves the town hall. But he was rude, he talked down the moderator, and he basically yelled at the audience. It was like, "Look, you stupid people, I'm in charge here. Don't challenge me." He came off defensive and muddled. His attitude improved marginally in the second half, but that was about all that did. As for reasoning, I didn't hear much of that from Bush.

So I say Kerry opened a can of woopass! His attacks are getting more aggressive and bolder. But he has to do a better job explaining in plain words what his policies will be. Both these guys start to sound like broken records.

What Kerry needs to do:
1. Stay focused
2. Pay less attention to the flip flopping (it's getting old now) and start attacking their flip-flops more directly
3. Try to actually address the question you were asked, don't go off on tangents as if you didn't hear the question.
4. Try to balance the attack with your own plans for the future
5. Stay on the offensive. Keep reminding people that Bush, Ashcroft, et all are dangerous.

All in all, the bar has been raised on Bush. He has a record he has to defend now. And from the questions this evening, it seemed that a lot of people are questioning his judgment. I notice that his spinners (like Karen Hughes) are working hard to try and pick up Bush's slack. But I really think people are seeing that the emperor has no clothes.