Ok, so I've got my note sheet here in front of me. I started scoring the questions as I've done in the past, but I quickly realized that it was pointless -- President Bush beat Senator Kerry like a rented mule.
First off, I thought Bob Schieffer's questions were quite good. A couple of them were real gut punches, like his question to Kerry about refusing to change Social Security and his question to Bush about Roe v. Wade. I haven't read all the other blogs yet, but I imagine some of them will give Mr. Schieffer a hard time for set-ups like the "backdoor draft" question he tossed Kerry, but overall I thought he did a fine job.
Bush hit a homerun with nearly every question he answered. Unfortunately, he avoided a couple, diverting from jobs to education (which are related, sure) and one other that I can't recall at the moment. He got in a few excellent points, however, particularly his call for a market solution to health care and his excellent defense of the proposed Marriage Amendment. His answer about faith was much better than Kerry's, particularly because Kerry had just finished telling us how his faith wouldn't influence his decision-making (with regards to abortion). Bush handled the flu vaccine question well -- that one surprised me, but he knew what was going on even if he couldn't remember the company's name that screwed up the production. Bush repeatedly called attention to Kerry votes that contradict Kerry's currently claimed positions. I thought Bush was great in the second debate, and this time he was even a bit better, using more of Kerry's words and votes against him. (Although I liked the format of the second debate much better.)
As for Senator Kerry, he stumbled around quite a bit. I was surprised to hear him quote from the Bible three times and even use scripture to justify his decision not to legislate against abortion. I thought it was hilarious when he accused Bush of changing the subject on the third question, and then immediately and explicitly changed the subject himself. Every time Kerry said "but first let me go back to the previous question..." I wanted to pull my hair out. That's so annoying -- stay in the time limits, and move on. Once again Kerry kept declaring himself to be more fiscally conservative than Bush, which is ludicrous. I find it hard to believe anyone who cares about keeping government small is going to vote for Kerry (not that Bush is really much better). It was also hilarious when he was defending abortion as a "Constitutional right" and started listing off amendments. He said he wouldn't appoint judges that would overrule the first or fifth amendments, "or any other rights the courts decide on... uh, I mean that are in the Constitution" -- referring to Roe v. Wade, and directly acknowledging that the right to an abortion comes from judges, not the Constitution. That's freaking brilliant. Also brilliant: pointing out that Cheney has a lesbian daughter -- how classy. Kerry also mentioned Reagan at least once, and then closed with "my fellow Americans... God bless America", which is lifted directly from Reagan. On the plus side, he managed to only reference Vietnam once.
I hate the stupid hand motions the candidates do in these debates. The closed-hand thumb-pointing thing Kerry does is idiotic. The friend I was watching with said that she liked that Bush was always looking at Kerry when Kerry was speaking because she thought it demonstrated that Bush was being attentive, and I agree. She also said that Bush may have been looking hard to try to intimidate Kerry, which may also have been the case. Either way, the President clearly beat the Senator in the visual department tonight -- too bad he didn't wear his Bush Blue power tie.
So, will it make a difference? Was anyone watching? Who knows.