Watching the pundits and reporters after last night’s Kerry-Bush debate, you’d think it was a tie. A lot of verbiage was devoted to pointing out how much Bush has improved since the first debate… he’s a great “closer”… he “connected” with voters… he made a “strong case” for a second term… blah, blah, blah.
But once again, viewers weren’t buying. Instant polls clearly showed Kerry the victor on points, which means he won politically too.
A CBS poll of “uncommitted” voters (if you ask me, if you’re undecided at this point, you ought to be committed) showed Kerry the winner 39-25 percent, with 36 percent calling it a tie. And a Gallup poll found Kerry won 52-39 percent, nearly the same margin as after the first debate.
Even the ABC poll, which on the surface showed Kerry with a statistically insignificant 42-41 margin, suggested a more decisive victory, that was otherwise skewed in Bush’s favor by the fact that 38 percent of respondents were Republican, and only 30 percent Democrat. More significant, “independents” gave Kerry a 52-43 edge.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that these instapolls are an even bigger load of crap than those tracking polls the media breathlessly reports. But I find it curious that reporters who are so emotionally invested in polling, stubbornly continued to proclaim the debate a tie in the face of their own numbers to the contrary.
The fact is, voters perceived Kerry to have won not one… not two… but all three debates. More importantly, he won be giving a consistent performance. Sure Bush may have come across as a little more likable (assuming you like snarling, mean-spirited drunks,) and Kerry may have come across as a little stiff. But that stiffness also translates into steadfastness, and Bush’s personal attempts to characterize Kerry as a “flip-flopper” fell flat in the presence of the senator’s rock-steady demeanor.
In the end, Americans may not want to go out drinking with Kerry, but they now view him as a reasonable alternative as president. So the election has become what it should have been from the start, a referendum on George Bush’s dismal performance, at home and abroad.
I really only see one way Bush can win this election: he cheats.
With that in mind, it’s still too close to call.