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Cheney showed skill, experience

Instant reaction from 'Hardball' panelists Andrea Mitchell,  Ron Reagan, Jon Meacham, and Joe Scarborough.

Andrea Mitchell
I  think Dick Cheney did awfully well at, first of all, putting John Edwards in his place, saying that I have been presiding over the Senate and I didn't meet you until tonight. Talking about his not having been on the job was pretty devastating. 

Ron Reagan, the younger son of the late President Ronald Reagan arrives for NBC's Summer Press Tour party in Los Angeles, California July 12, 2004. Reagan will address the Democratic National Convention in Boston about stem cell research. Reagan, 46, has been critical of President George W. Bush's administration for its restriction of federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research and on the war in Iraq. REUTERS/Jim RuymenJim Ruymen / X01224

Ron Reagan
Well, that was Cheney's best line.

I don't think we saw in this debate what we saw last time, which was a pretty clear winner that would be obvious to anybody.               

This time, I think the chattering classes, and I include all of us among them, will come out on the side of— there was a stature gap there, and it was to Cheney's advantage.  I am not sure that that stature gap is going to be quite so apparent, though, to the general public.

I will mention the one remark that Dick Cheney made that was so extraordinary at the beginning, where he denied ever drawing a parallel between 9/11 and Saddam.  All of us, our jaws hit the table. 

You know, I got in trouble last week when I said George Bush lost that debate. 

I tell you, tonight, no doubt about it.  Edwards got obliterated by Dick Cheney. This is the most surprising part:This debate actually turned in Cheney's direction when they started talking about domestic issues.  I thought Cheney handled the foreign policy issues very well.  But when they talked about taxes, there you had John Edwards saying, "Well, we support middle-class taxes." Dick Cheney says, "Yes, you didn't even vote for them this week.  You weren't there." 

On gay marriage, John Edwards talked about gay marriage for, what, five, six minutes?  Then he says, "We shouldn't even be talking about gay marriage."  Dick Cheney responds by saying, "Thanks for saying nice things about my daughter." That's it.  

I think the “SNL” shot, the “Saturday Night Live” shot this weekend is actually going to be the reactions, the facial reactions that John Edwards has every time he's zinged.  There is no doubt about it.  He was in over his head tonight.  It really wasn't a weak performance by Edwards so much as it was an extraordinarily strong performance by Dick Cheney. 

Jon Meacham, Newsweek Managing Editor
"Will the liberal press admit that Cheney" won? That's a very good question.  I think that the vice president did very, very well.  He turned in a strong and serene performance, compared to Edwards, who I think seemed like Kerry-lite.

Edwards seemed to have series of talking points he wanted to get in.  A lot of them direct echoes of Kerry, but he did not offer them with the same authority.  I think John Edwards was busy delivering a stump speech all night, while Dick Cheney showed up as the trial lawyer. 

Chris Matthews
I think the analogy would be a water pistol against a machine gun.  Every once in a while, Edwards would take a squirt at the vice president, and then the vice president would just turn the Howitzer on the guy. 

It was all the points about attendance record— that's tremendous amount of homework the Republican candidate for V.P. did here.  I don't think the well-rehearsed and well-briefed senator from North Carolina was ready for the assault.

It isn't only a failure of performance relative to that of the vice president's.  It seemed to me the problem with John Edwards is— he has never really opposed the Iraq war, until recently. 

The Democratic Party really never came out and said it wasn't necessary, it was bad philosophy, it was making us enemies of the world.  They tried to “me too” the president, "Oh, we went too fast or we might have stayed too long, and we didn't get in fast enough from Afghanistan." They never questioned the need to take down Saddam Hussein.  And that's why they can't win this argument.  That's what I think.

But there's something that is dramatic about the evening.  We are having a vice presidential debate with an incumbent president, George W. Bush, who is running for reelection, I believe on the same ticket as Dick Cheney.  I never heard the president's name, except that he was the gay basher.  He was the one, according to Cheney, that wouldn't let his daughter off the hook.  I just thought that was the strangest absence.  Edwards, to his credit, was at least there as the vice presidential candidate, talking about his presidential candidate. 

And Cheney, to his credit, kept bashing Kerry.  But the president's name never came up.  I found it fascinating.