I watched the debate on C-SPAN, where not only did they have a constant split-screen the entire time, but I got to see Jim Lehrer's instructions to the crowd and everything. It was kind of cool to see that. "You are not here to cheer, to yell, to have a pep rally. You are here to bear witness to these two men speaking directly to the voters of the United States."
Bush's main critique was that Kerry says one thing, then says another. He's right on this. It's what we're pissed at with Kerry. Bush was fully prepared to keep saying this, and I think he expected that Kerry would get tied up by it. But Kerry was smooth, and went a long way to deflect it, by contrasting that charge with Bush: Bush says one thing, then does another, then keeps doing that thing forever, no matter how poorly it's going. "Certainty can get you in trouble."
Physically, Bush looked like he was going to cry, and I wonder if he had prepared fully, actually having someone attack him in practice so he wouldn't roll his eyes and sigh and harumph and do that weird mouth thing. What was that? Kerry took notes, but more importantly, when Bush would talk about Kerry's "mixed message" statements, Kerry would nod, and almost mouth the words, "yes, I said that." It took so much of the zing out of Bush's charge, I thought. He didn't sweat, didn't stammer, didn't lose his cool once. He brought facts to the table, and actually used some facts that the average person didn't know. Like the 95% of unsearched containers. And the 4-7 nukes that N. Korea's got now. How's that multilateral negotiation going, Mr. Pres?
There was one time that Bush looked pissed off, asked for a 30-second extension, then sat there fuming for 15 seconds without saying anything. It was obvious that he doesn't hear criticism to his face all that often.
Oh, and a line that will haunt Bush: Kerry talked about spending money on homeland security, and Bush said something like "I don't know where he's going to get the money for all these promises." We have money for tax cuts, but don't have the money to protect America? Is that your position?