now even spinning this as a draw would be tough, and i imagine those who are trying watched the fullscreen version of the debate. bush's reaction shots while kerry spoke were just devastating (if you missed them, democrats.org has compiled some of the best looks into a short video called "faces of frustration". in that video bush blinks more than a mugger who's just been maced.
the main argument that this was a draw seems to be the "no knockouts" line (what i'll call the "nervous breakdown" rule): because kerry didn't bring bush to tears, because bush didn't completely fall apart onstage, because bush only stammered for 5-10 seconds at a time, they conclude, it wasn't a win for kerry. bush "won" by not being quite as pathetic as possible. rob corddry on the daily show put it best last night when he said "a retarded man fought off the smarted man in the world. we have to reelect him!"
the lead of today's new york times editorial demonstrates my point:
If Americans who tuned into last night's presidential debate were waiting for one of the candidates to catch the other in a fatal error, or leave him stammering, the event was obviously a draw. But if the question was whether Senator John Kerry would appear presidential, whether he could present his positions clearly and succinctly and keep President Bush on the defensive when it came to the critical issue of Iraq, Mr. Kerry delivered the goods.
a fatal error? perhaps there was no fatal error or blue screen of death in this debate, but that's an almost impossibly high bar to hit. that's like saying "they only won the super bowl by two or three touchdowns, and didn't beat the spread, so it's not really a win." (this isn't really what the times is saying, but enough others are.)