Friday, October 01, 2004

The Proof is in the Pudding

If there was any doubt as to who won strategically (see my earlier posting, below), then that doubt should be erased by looking at what each campaign is emphasizing.

The Bush campaign is focusing on Kerry's statements during the debate, pointing out Kerry's contradictions not only with other debate remarks but also with earlier Kerry statements made on the campaign trail. There's a lot of rhetorical grist here for the mill, and Kerry's conflicting statements have given Bush a lot of ammunition to shoot at him. In contrast, the Kerry campaign is touting Bush's facial expressions. I don't understand this strategy; do Kerry and his advisors really believe that poking fun at Bush is sufficient to pull undecided voters into the Kerry camp? What a juvenile response, and a pathetic one. Is this the best they can do with Kerry's performance?

Kerry did a good job last night of appearing presidential. He clearly was the better debator. Too bad the goal was to be the more credible leader instead of the more polished debator. Too bad he's not running for president of the Yale Alumni Debate Club. Kerry blew it.

The proof is in the pudding. The Kerry campaign response will make the rounds of the MoveOn types, get some laughs, and then fade in the archives with the Bush-as-Hitler ads. The Bush campaign response will provide talking points, zingers, and even more opportunities to reinforce major campaign themes -- Kerry is a flip-flopping, unserious candidate who is stuck in a pre-9/11 mentality. And they'll get to do this over and over again until Election Day, long after Kerry's visual impression fades.

One campaign gets a moral boost from a polished appearance. The other gets even more material to attack its opponent with his own words. Who really benefited from the debate?

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