This is the toughest we have ever seen John Kerry. He threw a long ball. This is a very gutsy move, and it's a challenge, because he is going up against a popular president.
But he attacked him on his credibility. He attacked him on his judgment. He said "certainty sometimes can get you in trouble." So he attacked the very core of the president's popularity, which is consistency and strength of leadership. And he acknowledged that he had spoken incorrectly about the $87 billion.
But he said, "Which is worse, speaking wrong, speaking incorrectly about that or making a mistake getting you into war?" This was a very tough performance. I am not sure that the American people will respond to it, but he is basically saying about the president and about Iraq, "Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?"
I think the good news, or bad (depending on your perspective), is that we [here at MSNBC] don't get to take a vacation the next month. I think we have got a race on our hands again.
I thought Kerry was the clear winner here. He was more certain. He was better informed. He was more presidential. And he stands up straight, and that doesn't hurt.
Jon Meacham, Newsweek Managing Editor
I think the country learned something very important tonight, which is that these are two very distinct visions.
I think a lot of people have thought, "Well, Kerry is always 'Bush, comma, but.'"
But you had consistently Bush saying, "You cannot lead if you send mixed messages, and Kerry saying, "You can be certain and be wrong."
And I think the fight between the theological view of the president and the more historical, realpolitik view of Kerry is something that is going to shape the race the rest of the way.
I thought, for the first 30 minutes of this debate, it was George W. Bush's best performance ever. George W. Bush, after the first 30 minutes lost his way. I am not exactly sure why. He started fumbling around. He said the phrase, "It's hard work 11 times." He would ask for an additional 30 seconds, and then he would have nothing to say in those additional 30 seconds. He would repeat himself.
What we have here in this debate tonight is basically the cowboy vs. the professor. If you are scoring this thing, the professor won on points. The question is— and this is what we are going to find out when people talk about it tomorrow— is that are they going to say, "Boy, John Kerry really had a better grasp of where to take this country over the next four years," or are they going to say, "George Bush knows what he believes in; he may not be the smartest guy on stage, but I trust him?" That's the question.
As far as the debate goes, I don't see how anybody could look at this debate and not score this a very clear win on points for John Kerry.