Post-debate polling at ABC:
First presidential debate: Kerry won, but Bush's 4-point among debate viewers lead remained unchanged.
Vice-presidential debate: Cheney won, but Bush's 3-point lead among debate viewers was cut to a 1-point lead.
I don't get it. But I'll take it.
(Oh, and the debate viewers this time were disproportionately Republican -- 38% GOP, 31% Dem, 27% independent -- so a near-dead heat among them after the debate is very satisfying.)
But Edwards won CBS's poll of uncommitteds, 41%-28%. Good news. And these stats from the CBS poll are terrific:
The North Carolina Senator is better liked among uncommitted voters than the Vice President. Eighty-two percent of men and 72 percent of women of this group of voters said they would like Edwards personally, while half of both men and women said Cheney was likeable.
Eighty-two percent of tonight’s uncommitted viewers said Edwards shared their priorities for the country, nearly twice the number who said this about Cheney. The Vice President did receive higher scores on leadership qualities from tonight’s uncommitted viewers, but majorities said both candidates had strong qualities of leadership.
I think Cheney is the more skilled debater -- he seems smart and he packs a lot (assertions and attacks) into his allotted time.
But I think Cheney was hurt by the fact that he was the stereotypical Democrat in this debate. What I mean is that successful Republicans -- Reagan, the Bushes -- have always been able to come off as jes' folks, as pork-rind-eatin', brush-clearin' regular Americans, while painting their opponents -- particularly Mondale, Dukakis, and Gore -- as humorless political technocrats. On that basis, Cheney embodied his own party's stereotype of the opposition.
In last week's debate, Kerry didn't come off as a humorless technocrat. Kerry came off as strong and direct. One of the arguments made about Kerry's slip in the polls in August and September was that he lost votes not because voters believed the Swift boat attacks, but because they didn't think he was strong enough to be president if he wasn't willing to confront those attacks. The first debate helped put those concerns to rest -- Kerry will go on the attack.
Kerry didn't seem evasive or deceitful. Neither did Edwards last night. They seem sincere and straightforward, and I think it's harder now for the Republicans to portray them as sneaky little flip-floppers.
Bush is the guy who really did live up to the criticism he gets -- in the debate he seemed immature and arrogant; he seemed like someone who won't listen to anything he doesn't want to hear and won't acknowledge and try to rectify his own mistakes. People have always been uneasy about Bush -- hey, he lost the damn election -- and last week he embodied their concerns. No wonder he's slipping in the polls ... even in a poll taken after a debate among voters who thought his guy won.