Last night’s Cheney-Edwards debate was a draw. Both men scored points. Both men missed opportunities. The “insta-polls” afterwards went either way, depending on which network you watched. There were no obvious gaffes on either side. Both sides can claim victory…of a sort.
From Bush’s point of view, Cheney had to stop the bleeding. With Bush having clearly lost last week’s encounter in Miami, the campaign could ill afford another drubbing. Whether Cheney won or not, he was at least solid. I doubt that Cheney persuaded any Kerry supporters to switch sides, but at least he reassured a nervous Republican base.
From Kerry’s point of view, Edwards matched blows for 90 minutes with the Vice President and managed to appear substantially his political equal. When you’re the challenger, your first goal is simply to demonstrate that you belong there. To the undecided voters who still matter, Edwards showed he belonged. No undecided voters will choose Kerry-Edwards as a result of this debate, but at least Edwards gave them no reason to choose Bush.
So, it was a draw. Vice Presidential debates historically are not relevant to the final outcome, and it appears this wasn’t the one to change that trend. The stakes remain high for the two remaining Bush-Kerry debates.