I'd have to say last night was fairly even in terms of effectiveness of each candidate. Accuracy is another matter, but if you look at the 90 minutes they were together, each had his own positive and negative moments. Some random observations:
- Cheney loses those who vote based on posture: Does Cheney have some sort of degenerative back disease, or is he auditioning for The Hunchback of Notre Dame after he leaves office?
- Is this thing on?: A related issue is why Cheney couldn't keep from rustling his damned microphone. The first point explains why, but I guess I'm wondering whether he couldn'tve adjusted it in some way or recognized the effect.
- Edwards, the eager beaver: I wonder whether Edwards' leaning forward comes across as "engaged" or "too eager to please."
- Obvious observations: I'm sick of post-analysis analysis which points out that the debates reinforce pre-existing perceptions of the candidates. This is kind of a "duh" comment at this point. They need to sift through and find the moments where Cheney was persuasive even to Democrats and Edwards was persuasive even to Republicans. I'd say Cheney busting on Edwards for his attendance was good. I thought his Howard Dean line was effective and would have been more so had he been able to sit upright. I liked his reference to El Salvador; I'm not sure I buy it as an analogy, but I thought it was likely effective.
- Hand wringing: Was anybody as shocked as I was to see Cheney fidgeting with his hands, particularly at the beginning? He looked like he was doing a C. Montgomery Burns impression. How did the debate prep folks not catch this? It revealed his unease with the questions and/or format. I'm not fond of all Edwards' gesticulations, but his rarely fall into a negative stereotype.
- Win for Gwen: Except for a few stumbles on the order of whose turn to respond, I thought she did a pretty good job of picking questions. Some were odd (e.g., Cheney pointing out, "You want me to respond about his qualifications?"), but she had some stuff that threw the candidates. The AIDS question is obvious, but the "without mentioning your running mate by name" rule on responding to one of her questions was great because it forced the candidates to speak outside of their programming (and revealed that Edwards had a tough time deprogramming). Actually, I noticed this with the trial for which I was a juror. The plaintiff's attorney repeatedly violated a rule about using the first names of his clients, in part because I'm sure that's how he practiced and it threw him to have to adapt.