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Kerry 1, Bush 0

Ain't neither one of 'em Obama or Clinton. Heck, I've known Demosthenians that could eat either of them for lunch.

However, even Republicans I know admitted quite honestly and candidly that Kerry won the debate tonight.

This could be bad for Bush, because this first debate, concentrating on foreign policy, should have been his easiest and most comfortable ground, as Republicans are typically perceived as being the stronger party in international and military affairs. Unless Kerry gets overconfident, it may only go downhill for Bush from here.

In terms of body language, Kerry was doing some very good things, and Bush was doing some very bad things. GWB was hunching over the podium and blinking a lot: psychologists have done studies on the latter that indicate that the more someone blinks, the less trust an audience will have in what they're saying. If I were Barbara Bush, I'd want to grab him by the scruff of the neck and say "Son, you're the President of the United States of America! Stand up straight! Quit slouching!" If that didn't work, I'd stick my foot in the small of his back and yell "Posture! Posture!"

In contrast, Kerry was able to make himself seem less towering and gaunt: he repeatedly brought his hands on or near his heart, subtly communicating compassion while breaking that loooong line of body up so that he appeared animated and forceful. Whoever coached him did a good job. Additionally, he smiled repeatedly, and in a way that communicated confidence. (Saw this most often in the split screen view NBC used. Bush pursed his lips a lot, and smiled maybe three times during the whole thing.)

Kerry also did a good job of producing stats and information, while GWB stumbled repeatedly, latching onto "the wrong war at the wrong time" at least five times that I counted, maybe seven total, while he struggled to articulate. My only minor concern was that Kerry was maybe a little too prepared and informative at times -- don't want to alienate John and Jane Public with the intellectualism. However, I think he overcame that with successful body language. The Democrats have clearly learned from too much policy wonk stiffness with Gore in 2000.

We'll see if he can stay the course after the first debate, and then if it will be enough in November. Regardless, he did a very solid and respectable job tonight: despite a few minor slip-ups, he came across as presidential material, and that's exactly what he needed to accomplish.

Guess you'll have to pull Osama bin Laden out of that box you've been keeping him in for the predicted October Surprise, George. If the first debate is any indication, you're going to need all the help you can get.

As a side note, this NPR list of Top Ten Secrets They Don't Want You To Know About the Debates is interesting reading.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2004 04:12 am (UTC)
I think that last night's debate helped sealed the deal for undecided's.
In re: Bush's body language. The hubby and I were talking about this. About how Bush had the long pauses, constant blinking, pursed lips, downing the water like crazy, shifting side to side, pounding on the podium to irriderate his point. Kerry, while tall, looking confident and smiling. Hubby thinks that Kerry smiled a little too much, perhaps leading people to think he was overconfident and smirking almost.

Great NPR list!

p.s. I wouldn't be surprise if the Bush administration pulls a huge surprise like finding Osama or come to terms with North Korea or something to that fact right before elections time to show "what a great president and leader Bush is" (insert rolling of eyes here)
Oct. 1st, 2004 07:35 am (UTC)
Re: your hubby, I suspect Kerry was smiling to try and counter the perception people have of him as being dour and reserved.

And yes, I agree that an Osama "surprise" is quite probable. I just hope people will see it for the manipulation it is.

I also agree that this debate helped Kerry with undecided voters.

Oct. 1st, 2004 11:01 am (UTC)
I'm guessing you've already seen this: http://www.osamasweepstakes.com/ - but just in case...

Thanks for the body language break down. That might have been more interesting than the debate itself.
Oct. 1st, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC)
I hadn't! Thanks for the link. I put my guess down for Oct. 21st: that's a week and a day after the final presidential debate, but still enough time for word to get out before the actual election.

I think it would be kind of interesting to watch the debate on mute and take notes. I'll also be curious to see how much Bush has improved in the next debate. Last night was so bad that I almost thought it deliberate, honestly. I guess I just don't know what they'd have to gain from that.
Oct. 1st, 2004 12:19 pm (UTC)
Great article on their body language at last night's debate.
Oct. 1st, 2004 12:20 pm (UTC)
I guess a link would help:
Body Language
Oct. 1st, 2004 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I didn't see the swaying that one commenter in the article mentioned, but then, I wasn't there in person. Perhaps it was more noticeable from the audience, or from a different camera view. I'd have to see it again.

There may be another interesting linguistic side element going on with Kerry's hand gestures. A lot of hand communication goes on in the military, when dialogue must be silent. This may have been a subtle reminder of his past command, to those who have such a history themselves.

Oct. 1st, 2004 05:05 am (UTC)
Thanks for all this. I didn't watch, knowing it would just make me mad and I didn't want to be mad. NPR gave a depressingly mild "looks like Kerry won, but we'll see how spin-doctors work it" report this morning.

And that list from NPR was great and fully cemented my fear that I'd get mad if I'd watched it. Thanks!
Oct. 1st, 2004 06:24 am (UTC)
I thought this debate was going to make me mad and/or depressed, but it didn't. My confidence in Kerry has been renewed, or at the very least my optimism got a much needed jolt. It wasn't a landslide victory by any means, but, from my perspective, Kerry was in command of the debate, and Bush was on the defensive almost the whole time. Kerry remained clam and poised, while Dubya came off as flustered, agitated, and, at times, a little panicky.

Of course I remember thinking that Gore has done great in the debates last time, so my opinion might not be worth much...
Oct. 1st, 2004 01:57 pm (UTC)
At least Kerry has not yet attempted the Macarena in any public forum that I've seen. :)
Oct. 1st, 2004 07:31 am (UTC)
*smiles* Thank you so much for reading it and responding. :)

Bush's hunching was embarrassingly bad: I wanted to stick my foot in the small of his back and yell "Posture!" If I were Barbara, I would have been outraged -- like her or not, I have no doubt that the words "Stand up straight!" passed her maternal lips growing up.

Kerry is taller than Bush already, but Bush made it much worse by cowering timidly behind the podium! It looked just terrible. This is how he presents himself to other nations as the leader of the free world on our behalf? And there are people who want four more years of it? Are they out of their minds?

Given my years in a college debate society, I have a little more experience with public speaking than many out there. I also have over a decade's worth of knowledge related to acting (which includes controlling body language), and I feel reasonably qualified to assess each candidate's performance. Finally, being a fairly centrist individual in both respects, I'm not tied to either party. I can say confidently and objectively that if elections were decided by debate skills alone, based on last night, Kerry would be the next president. He's no Clinton, but he's more than qualified to beat Bush.

Unfortunately, politics have become a true ideological divide in this country, and even though many Republicans must grudgingly acknowledge Kerry's success last night, I'm afraid most people had their minds made up one way or the other before either of them uttered the first word.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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