October 5, 2004 | 11:14 p.m. ET

The vice presidential debate, round-by-round (Keith Olbermann)

There are reasons nobody ever tries to score political debates as fights.

Few candidates ever wind up absolutely knocked out.

Few referees or judges' point-by-point subjective judgments are ever validated by one of the debaters throwing in the towel.

The overall impact of a debate might be completely different than the question-by-question scoring. And those who try, end up with their heads feeling like mush.

Do not try this at home!

Pre-fight notes: What is it with these notes? Perhaps Cheney is writing “stare daggers at him.”

Round one: Cheney receives about the Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld comments. Cheney deflects by saying thank you. Unexpected. Cheney dodges, mentions 9/11, starts to tell the entire history of terror, uses “terror” or “terrorists” eight times. Uses “Nexus” - minus one point. Edwards cordially punches Cheney right in the Baghdad, “you are not being straight with the American people.” One point to Edwards. But he repeats Kerry’s “more in August than July, more in July than June” — minus one point. Cheney opts for thirty seconds but seems too technical. Edwards scores by quoting 9/11 Commission and Colin Powell that there’s no connection between Iraq and 9/11 without giving Cheney a chance to reply. Plus one point.
Round to Edwards, 1-0.

Round two: Edwards receives about whether or not a Kerry-Edwards administration would’ve meant Saddam Hussein was still in progress. Again parrots Kerry about Bin Laden in Tora Bora. Minus one point. Starts to confuse Osama and Saddam. Minus one point. Cheney denies he’s suggested a connection between Iraq and 9/11, which is news if you’ve been living on this planet. Minus one point. Cheney twists back to Kerry’s “Global Test” quote. One point to Cheney.
Round to Cheney, 0-1.

Round three: Cheney receives about pursuit of Bin Laden. He and Edwards still seem nervous. Maybe it’s Gwen Ifill. Cheney hits Edwards for his early criticism of Afghanistan war, which Edwards praised in previous answer. One point to Cheney. Cheney gives a tourism pitch for Afghanistan. Edwards responds with a striking blow, “Somebody got it wrong, but not John Kerry and John Edwards.” Point to Edwards. Edwards rebuts Cheney zinger on “Global Test” and uses the term “pretend” to describe what President and VP do. Edwards brings up drug production in Afghanistan. Point to Edwards. Cheney’s rebuttal drags El Salvador into it, possibly the first mention of the country since Ronald Reagan’s second term. Edwards sees the El Salvador and raises him one Iran and one North Korea. Point to Edwards.
Round to Edwards, 3-1.

Round four: Edwards receives: what’s a “Global Test” if not a “Global Veto”?
Edwards’ court-room skills finally appears, harkening to old American values. Nice cadence to “it’s critical to be credible.” Point to Edwards. Compares Gulf War costs to Iraq War costs and rebuts veto. Cheney response is slow. But he zings Edwards with “you probably weren’t there to vote” for the Iraqi budgets. One point to Cheney. Cheney brings up “Wrong War, Wrong Time, Wrong Place.” Point to Cheney. Hammers home political element to Kerry. Edwards rebuts with “distortion,” scores with “the American people don’t need to be told what they saw Thursday night.” Point to Edwards. Cheney responds by repeating “30-year record” statement.
Round — draw, 2-2.

Round five: Cheney receives about his “hit again” remark. Claims he’s not challenging Kerry’s patriotism. Cites the applause he got for his acceptance speech at RNC. Minus one point to Cheney for ego. Answer on Kerry and Edwards’ voting record on body-armor etc., invokes Howard Dean. One point to Cheney. But Cheney leaves the stomach and ribs open for strong Edwards left-right. Edwards hits with “a long resume does not indicate” good judgment. Edwards now hits the stomach saying the programs Kerry voted against were the ones Cheney as Secretary of Defense suggested. Two points to Edwards. Invokes Halliburton. Cheney rebuttal is clichéd, “I think the record speaks for itself” but rebounds with “when the polls are bad.” Point to Cheney.
Round — Edwards, 2-1.

Round six: Edwards receives on naievete of international coalition for Iraq. Edwards dances with Bush’s record, but introduces an unheard-of thing: a new idea, training Iraqis outside of Iraq. Point to Edwards. Good joke line: “you need more than 35 people to hold elections in Cleveland,” nevermind Iraq. Point to Edwards. Turns around body-armor on Bush. Point to Edwards. Cheney in clinch, “It’s hard to know where to begin.” Repeats Kerry’s comments “demeaning” Prime Minister Allawi. “Not the way to win friends and allies.” Edwards rejoinds with statistics, hammers home “90 percent” of costs. Point to Edwards. Cheney gets mean, saying he’s “demeaning” Iraqis. Point to Cheney. Edwards interrupts. Minus one point to Edwards.
Round — Edwards, 3-1.

Round seven: Edwards receives - Ifill makes a mistake (minus one point to Ifill) on how Kerry Administration would handle Iraq. Edwards runs through disparity between Bush claims and what Americans see. Turns “Shock and Awe” around on Cheney. A flurry! Turns around “everything 9/11” on Cheney. Turns around 9/11 Commission on Cheney. Cheney battered and in the corner. Two points to Edwards. Cheney’s lips tight and he skips away from the ropes with the history of Al-Zarqawi. Turns out of clinch to hit Edwards: it’s Zarqawi you see on television executing Americans. Two points to Cheney.
Round —Draw, 2-2.

Round eight: Cheney receives: should we lift sanctions against Iran. Cheney gets breathing room. Edwards shown crossing out items on notes. Minus one point to Edwards. Cheney leans forward. Scratches own microphone against collar of jacket. Minus one technical point to Cheney. Edwards scores with Al-Qaeda presence in 60 countries, not just Iraq. Blames Bush-Cheney “watch” for deterioration in Iran. Mentions Halliburton four times. Analogizes to Ken Lay. Point to Edwards. Cheney slips! Asks for more than thirty seconds to respond, smiles, Ifill denies. Minus one technical point to Cheney as crowd laughs. Edwards rebuttal: Cheney’s company does business with “sworn enemies” of U.S. Plus one point to Edwards.
Round —Edwards, 1 to -2.

Round nine: Edwards receives: how would Kerry-Edwards respond to Middle East peacemaking. Tells a personal story about visit to Israel. Minus one point for diminishing scope of conflict. Edwards strays into Saudis and Iran, somewhat off point. Cheney brings up Halliburton himself. Minus one point Cheney. Cheney head-butts Edwards with Senate attendance record: “the first time I met you was when you stepped on this stage.” Two points to Cheney. Cheney says “interlocutor.” Minus one point to Cheney. Edwards pounces on records on Cheney’s record in House, dragging in Martin Luther King Day, Release of Nelson Mandela. One point to Edwards. Cheney responds blankly with “the record speaks for itself.”
Round — Edwards, 1-0.

Round ten: Cheney receives on economics. Questions Ifill’s judgment. Minus one technical point to Cheney. Cheney tries to avoid economics by going into education. Cheney leaves himself open with “No Child Left Behind.” Will Edwards hit the unfunded mandate opening? Edwards scores by pointing out Cheney avoided education. One point to Edwards. But he skips unfunded mandate. Minus one point to Edwards. Edwards warming up for bolo punch on “Two Americas” - but swings wildly on outsourcing jobs. Cheney hits strongly with positive economic statistics. Point to Cheney. Accuses Edwards of using old data. Edwards still has “Two Americas” opportunity, but swings wildly again. Minus one point to Edwards.
Round — Cheney, 0 to -1.

Round eleven: Edwards receives on Kerry economic plan for no tax refunds for 200K earners. Says he and Kerry have a “moral” responsibility not to leave trillions of debts. One point to Edwards. Edwards says he and Kerry can’t eliminate defecit in one term. Cheney responds with stutter, “Gwennnuh,” bobs and weaves with Kerry’s votes and philosophy. Somebody coughs. There is a crowd! Cheney leaves himself open in the head with references to “7 out of 10 jobs will be created by small businesses.” But he rebounds quoting Edwards criticizing Kerry’s plan. Point to Cheney. Edwards rebuts in same form: Kerry’s pro-economic votes and philosophy. Cheney concludes with more taxes, notes Senators’ absence at votes. Point to Cheney.
Round — Cheney, 2-1.

Round twelve: Cheney receives on same-sex opposition compared to his family experience. Cheney disagrees personally with Bush. Point to Cheney for candor. Edwards dekes back to tax policy, confusing scorers. Minus one technical point to Edwards. Edwards steers back to question. Says Cheney’s support of daughter is a wonderful thing. Point to Cheney.
Round - Cheney, 2 to -1.

Round thirteen: Edwards on Massachusetts support for same-sex, are he and Kerry “trying to have it both ways?” Edwards surprised Gwen Ifill has punched him. Minus one point to Edwards. Thank goodness I’m writing this, I’d have fallen asleep by now. Rebounds with poignant description of death of gay spouses, brands amendment “unnecessary.” No state has ever had to recognize another state’s marriage. Says it’s political, intended to divide. Point to Edwards. Cheney cordial about daughter. Simple and effective. Point to Cheney.
Round —Cheney, 1-0.

Round fourteen: Cheney receives. Trial lawyers - is Cheney saying Edwards is part of the problem? Nice banter with Ifill. Warm laughter. Point to Cheney. Cheney brings up OB-GYN’s. Oh no! Not another “practice their love”? Cheney doesn’t slip on wet spot left by Bush faux pas. Doesn’t attack lawyers, defends doctors. Point to Cheney. Edwards twists trial experience as defense of kids versus corporations. Says he too thinks there are too many trials. Point to Edwards. Explains “three strikes and you’re out” rule for lawyers who file frivolous cases. Point to Edwards. Edwards brings up past case about little girl paralyzed by chronically damaged pool covers.
Round - Draw, 2-2.

Round fifteen: Edwards receives: does he feel personally attacked by Bush-Kerry criticism of lawyers? In clinch, takes doctors’ side in issue. Swings back with statistic that Bush-Kerry plans refer to one half of one percent of all health care costs. One half point to Edwards. Cheney lost with response about Minnesota Aircraft Piston plant. Minus one point to Cheney. Blames medicare growth on a bill Kerry voted. Point to Cheney. Hits hard with Edwards’ own private corporation to avoid taxes. Point to Cheney. Edwards punches Cheney, saying he paid his taxes, Halliburton didn’t. Cheney rebuttal with drug discount card for seniors - most of the audience. Point to Cheney.
Round — Cheney, 2 to ½.

Round sixteen: Cheney receives about AIDS affecting women in America. Cheney flinches, talks globally, cites $15B for international aid. Minus one point to Cheney. Says he had not heard numbers about African-American women. Startling admission. Minus one point to Cheney. Cheney wounded badly. Edwards misses easy opening on Cheney’s unfamiliarity, goes back to Africa. Minus one point to Edwards. Opens up towards Sudan, says “here, we need to do much more.” Broadens out ineffectively to American health care coverage. Subject completely avoided. Minus one point to Edwards.
Round — Draw, -2 to -2.

Round seventeen: Edwards receives on his low governmental experience, what makes him worthy of being one heartbeat away. Edwards acknowledges his own resume, trots out “a long resume does not mean good judgment.” Minus one point to Edwards. Edwards bloodied, struggles. Cheney seems playful. “Want me to discuss his qualifications?” One point to Cheney. Cheney talks about Wyoming’s electoral votes. Minus one point to Cheney, except in Cheyenne. Cites own experience: “It’s worked.” Says he has no further political aspirations. One point to Cheney. Edwards rebuts with praise of Kerry. Good speech but doesn’t talk about himself. Minus one point to Edwards for ducking. Cheney comes back to praise President. Also beyond the issue. Minus one point to Cheney.
Round - Cheney, 0 to -2.

Round eighteen: Cheney receives, asked to explain why he’s different than John Edwards without mentioning Bush or Kerry. Great question. Compares his story to Edwards’ history. Minus one point to Cheney. Muffling his microphone again. Minus one technical point to Cheney. Mentions his service “except when we’ve lost elections.” Oops. Minus one point to Cheney. Swings back to terrorism and 9/11 and lands glancing blows. Edwards stings in rebuttal, “We were attacked, but we weren’t attacked by Saddam Hussein.” One point to Edwards. Edwards uses Kerry’s name. Minus one technical point to Edwards. Does it again referring to debate. Minus one technical point to Edwards. Point lost, Edwards backs away from Cheney towards a unified terrorist watch list.
Round - Draw, -2 to -2.

Round nineteen: Edwards receives on flip-flopping question, citing both candidates. Edwards scores self-deprecatingly: “I can use his name now?” One point to Edwards. Back to Iraq and Paul Bremer’s comments. Punches with Bush-Cheney flip-flops on Commission, Homeland Security, Budget Surplus, Support for Troops and reduction in combat pay, Health Care (“they’ve done something, they’ve done it worse”), underfunding of No Child Left Behind. Edwards connecting repeatedly. Three points to Edwards, his finest moment. Cheney responds tepidly on Kerry’s record in Iraq. “I can think of a lot of words to describe it, but consistent isn’t one of them.” Ducks out of Bremer remarks by talking about Generals’ wishes. Edwards with a blow to Cheney’s head, “Yeah, but they didn’t fund No Left Child Behind.” Brings up dropouts in Cleveland. One point to Edwards. Cheney off the ropes with vague stats, hits Patriot Act. Ifill confuses Edwards on thirty-second reply. Minus point to Ifill.
Round - Edwards, 5-0.

Round twenty: Cheney receives on bridging the divide between Democrats and Republicans. Cheney says it’s a disappointment. Invokes opposition to Patriot Act by “other side,” but big punch doesn’t hit. Minus one point to Cheney. Invokes harsh administration critic Jack Murtha as an old friend. Minus one point to Cheney. Keeps muffling his microphone. Not much missed. Invokes Zell Miller as a bi-partisan example. Minus one point to Cheney. Edwards asks “have you ever seen America more divided?” says it was a direct result of Bush-Cheney policy. One point to Edwards. He veers back to health care, off topic. Minus one point to Edwards. The debate is running long - when does “After Hours” begin? Who’s looking out for “After Hours”? Cheney, tired, again says “it’s hard to know where to start.” Minus one point to Cheney.  Notes Kerry and Edwards votes against prescription drug benefits. One point to Cheney. Edwards responds strongly, “they had a choice” - says Bush made wrong choices. One point to Edwards.
Round - Edwards, 1 to -3.

Round twenty-one: Closing statements. Edwards paints picture of a beautiful childhood of watching his father learn math from television. Where the hell is this going? Ref and Cheney cautious, confused. Edwards confuses with “bright light of America is flickering.” The tv light? Minus one point to Edwards. Edwards rallies with picture of an empty seat at the table with a loved one serving in Iraq. One point to Edwards. Cheney stumbles about access to medical care. With no rebuttal, trots out “special responsibility” on voters to choose carefully on November 2nd. One point to Cheney. Cheney again uses “terror” or “terrorists” four times, 23 for entire debate.
Round - Cheney, 1-0.

Conclusion
Intangibles: Cheney scored “photograph shots” with repeated reference to Edwards’ absences for key Senate votes, and the “money shot” by noting that as President of the Senate he had never previously met Senator John Edwards. But that fact is eminently spinnable, and if Democrats can prove they did meet, or that Edwards was physically in the Senate the last four years as often as Cheney, prime memory of the bout could be turned into Republican disaster.Major feel-good moment for Cheney in Round Thirteen when he pleasantly responded to Edwards’ comments about Cheney’s daughters and yielded rest of his response time to the moderator.

Cheney didn’t lose temper, but did leave questions open about why he mentioned terror or terrorists 23 times, and George Bush only a couple of times. Edwards said “Halliburton” six times but only scored with quotable line about Halliburton doing business with “sworn enemies of the United States.”

Overall impact of bout: a marginal victory, on rounds and intangibles, for Vice President Cheney, with window open on possible past Cheney-Edwards meeting.

Total Rounds: Cheney 8, Edwards 8, Drawn 5.

Total Net Points: Edwards 22.5, Cheney 11.

October 6, 2004 | 9:44 a.m. ET

Morning after at the scorer's table (Keith Olbermann)

A major truth foul has been declared against Vice President Dick Cheney, and his narrow victory over John Edwards in last night's Light Heavyweight Debate has been overturned by the Boxing Commission scoring the bout (me).

While rounds were scored even and Edwards was ahead on points at its conclusion, Cheney had been awarded the contest on the intangibles and the overall impact— largely because of a memorable phrase that underpinned his left-right combination that nailed Edwards in the solar plexus of his inexperience and the breadbasket of his alleged prioritizing of electioneering instead of Senatorial work: "In my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."       

But Cheney and Edwards have met at least twice, once inside the Senate. Who did the Vice President know, and when did he know him?Within an hour of the last of the 21 rounds, a "freeze frame" from a C-SPAN telecast of Senator Edwards and Vice President Cheney at a 2001 Prayer Breakfast was being circulated around the internet.       

And by morning, the Kerry-Edwards campaign had produced irrefutable evidence that when Elizabeth Dole was sworn in by Senate President Cheney as the junior senator from North Carolina just last year, it was Senator Edwards who (with her husband) escorted her to Mr. Cheney. Senator Dole was sworn in using Mrs. Edwards' bible.       

The only way Cheney could have avoided meeting Edwards was if he'd had an attack of tunnel vision, or cauliflower ear.      

"The first time I ever met you" was the cornerstone of post-fight analysis and Cheney's goal of making viewers dismiss Edwards. It's now been turned around on the vice president and accompanying spin doctors. The prospect of this outcome was forecast in last night's original scoring of this bout. This reporter expects a day of heavy piling on by Democratic spinners, with great success.      

The Boxing Commission (me) thus penalizes Fighter Cheney 10 points for untruthfulness, 10 points for forgetting his acquaintances, 2 points for snideness, and 2 points for hitting himself with his own jab. Republican spin doctors are penalized 10 points each for premature jocularity. This fight is awarded to Fighter Edwards on points.    

The Boxing Commission will reconvene here Friday night for Bush-Kerry II, the Kablooey in St. Louie.

E-mail Keith at KOlbermann@MSNBC.com

Keith Olbermann is soon going to have his own blog! 'Bloggermann' is coming soon. Check back at Countdown.msnbc.com.

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