The Split Screen of Death
by CA Pol Junkie
The 32-page rule book the campaigns negotiated for the debate called for TV coverage to only show the candidate who is actually speaking. Of course, the TV networks didn't sign the deal, and several showed both candidates the whole time. What hurt Al Gore in the first debate in 2000 was what he did while Bush was speaking. In historic karma, Bush was hit by the same problem. He might not have realized those sneaky TV networks were doing split screens against his wishes, but the split screen showed a stark comparison between the candidates.
Kerry was always cool and confident, taking notes whenever Bush said something that deserved rebuttal. Taking notes itself undermined what Bush was saying because it showed that there was something wrong with it, even when Kerry didn't rebut everything Bush said. George W. Bush looked shockingly bad, alternating smirks, fatigue, and a variety of simian expressions while Kerry looked more presidential than the president throughout.
Of course, Kerry won on substance last night. What swings the middle of the road is their impression of the person. On style and presentation, Kerry was absolutely superior to Bush. There was no "there you go again" killer line (though "more of the same" was good), but Kerry looked like someone who belonged on TV speaking to the nation. Looking the part is key to winning the role.