Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Cheney-Edwards Debate - Some Thoughts

Short Analysis: Cheney wins, by being poised, articulate and knowledgeable. Edwards loses by being nervous, speaking in soundbites and drifting off-topic.

Best line of the night: Cheney, when he told Edwards that he (Cheney) had been going to the Senate weekly, on Tuesdays, for the last four years and, "Senator, the first time I ever met you was when you walked on this stage tonight." Edwards had to convince the voters that he has the experience and commitment to be VP, and instead Cheney displayed him as a poser who doesn't even show up. That one will stick and was delivered with a calm precision that made it perfectly believable.

Cheney had another tactic that, to me, spoke volumes: he let Edwards speak. On occasion, Cheney declined to answer or gave terse, extremely brief one. He was clearly content to let Edwards hang himself. Edwards, for his part, used too much of the old class-warfare rhetoric that really doesn't play as well as it did in its heyday. And he was sniping/snipy. Cheney was clearly only too comfortable letting Edwards be Edwards.

Edwards is reasonably good on the attack. He got in a few of the usual shots, as I would expect from a trial lawyer. But his defense is abysmal - I guess trial lawyers don't get as much practice at that. Each time Cheney hit him, Edwards staggered. He missed the point of several questions, and often wanted to "go back" and redo the previous question, like an overcoached candidate who realized he hadn't finished all his talking points yet.

Cheney is, for all his dry delivery, an ad-libber. Edwards stuck to talking points. Ad-libbers win debates, especially when they know their stuff as well as Cheney does.

Cheney's victory will bump up the Bush-Cheney ticket modestly in the polls with his performance, maybe 1/2 point or even 1 point. More importantly though, he ends for now the manufactured "momentum" of the Dems. And of course, if he had lost, the story would have been front-page above the fold; but as it is, you probably won't hear about it after tomorrow.

UPDATE: For a military man's point of view on the debate, including some solid fact-checking of the comments made by the candidates, see here.