Josh Marshall, on the other hand, talkes about what I found to be the most striking part about the debate: The defensiveness of Bush:
What occured to me somewhat while I was watching the first time and even more on the second go through was just how long it's been since President Bush had to face someone who disagrees with him or is criticizing.On Kerry, Josh' conclusion was also the most important in my view (and this was echoed by Stephanapoulis on ABC):
Every president gets tucked away into a cocoon to some degree. But President Bush does notoriously few press conferences or serious interviews. His townhall meetings are screened so that only supporters show up. And, of course, he hasn't debated anyone since almost exactly four years ago.
Frankly, I think it showed. It irked him to have to stand there and be criticized and not be able to repeat his talking points without contradiction.
If you look at the dynamics of this race and the small but durable lead President Bush has built up over the last month, it comes less from people becoming more enamored of President Bush or his policies as it has from a steep decline in confidence in Sen. Kerry.
To put it bluntly, the Bush campaign has created an image of Kerry as a weak and indecisive man, someone that -- whatever you think of President Bush -- just can't be trusted to keep the country safe in these dangerous times.
Often they've made him into an object of contempt.
Whatever else you can say about this debate, though, whatever you think of his policies, I don't think that's how Kerry came off. I think he came off as forceful and direct. And I suspect that most people who were at all genuinely undecided came away from the 90 minutes with that impression.