I agree VEFF, that Kerry made the best impression. His speech was clear, calm, and his tone gave him the appearance of the voice of reason. So if you were to ask the everyman who won the debate, I believe they'd tell you Kerry did, at least if they were unbiased. I myself would tell you I think Kerry won if you base it purely off of speech-making and communications skills.
At the same time, Bush made some good points about Kerry's past decisions, voting decisions that have sometimes contradicted what Kerry claims to be his current views. Bush's position was not bad; but Bush is not the best debater, and he himself admits it. He needs to get his pauses, almost bordering on mild stammering, under control. Doing so would have put the two candidates on fairly equal footing. It might also help if he changed his style so that he doesn't hit the same points about Kerry repeatedly in rebuttal: being able to shift one's attack allows for more points from intelligent listeners, who want to know as much as they can.
Who really won in my opinion? My long answer is that regardless of who won, the debate did not address issues with enough depth (that is, the issues have depth, but the answers did not) to really declare a winner that would convince me to vote for either. Both candidates can tell you what they think the other will do wrong, and pledge what they won't do. However, a president is only as strong as Congress will let him be, and so many details are necessary in resolving issues in Iraq that a pledge during a debate is a pledge in name only --what one could call a piecrust promise: easily made, easily broken.
LoneWolf (McCain/Feingold in 2004)
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