- He was clear about his position on Iraq - Yes, Saddam Hussein was a danger, but a lower priority than Osama bin Laden, and we should never have gone it essentially alone.
- He further made headway in pointing out that Osama is still out there due to our being distracted, unnecessarily, by Iraq.
- He succinctly presented his vision of security through alliances, and how it relates to Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the war on terror in general.
- He made the point that while we build police and fire stations in Iraq, we're closing them here at home; instead of protecting our nation we gave millionaires another tax cut.
Beyond what was said, Kerry simply behaved better. While Bush was speaking, Kerry showed proper respect for the President. Bush, however, looked agitated and impatient while Kerry spoke. Other reasons W lost:
- It was his campaign that insisted on the timing lights being visible to the audience, yet he was the candidate who had trouble keeping to the time limits.
- Several times (particularly in the second half of the debate) he asked for more time to reply to Kerry's answer, then stumbled around with nothing to say.
- When at a loss for words he kept repeating the same tired comments about Kerry having "many different positions" on Iraq, after it has already been satisfactorily explained by Kerry.
- Note to W: the shorter candidate should never slouch behind the lectern. It makes you look smaller than you really are, in both size and stature.
I was also extremely pleased that, despite the campaigns best efforts to sanitize the proceedings, there was a bit of exchange between the candidates that almost approached it being a real debate, and not just a stage managed event.
Still, the best line of the night came before the debate, when Chris Matthews was talking to reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton began by commenting on the debate being held in Florida, and said of the President that he's "returning to the scene of the crime."
When Matthews asked about Kerry's seemingly changing positions on Iraq, Sharpton replied that Kerry's only mistake at first was "believing this President." He went on to say, "You want to know Dan Rather's sources? Fine! What were [Bush's] sources? Where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?"
Yes, I think Kerry won the debate, but I only wish he had brought some of Sharpton's excitement and directness onto the podium.
Next up, the domestic issues debate. I just hope that John Kerry tears Bush's domestic record apart, then looks into the camera and quotes Ronald Reagan; "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"