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Round 1: Kerry.

Well, to give credit where it’s due, Dubya has clearly improved as a debater since 2000. While occasionally flustered and often seeming petulant, he never seemed as confused and inarticulate as he did in his jousts with Gore…in fact, I’d go so far to say that he even occasionally seemed wily. Still, given the artifice of the format, it’s hard to see how John Kerry could have done much better in tonight’s first debate. After the first question or so, Kerry seemed calm, collected, forceful and resolute, and he managed to make succinct and readily understandable distinctions between he and Dubya throughout. For undecided voters who imbibed all the RNC’s garbage a month ago and were expecting another Dukakis Dem in John Kerry, I suspect they may have begun reevaluating him tonight. And, when you consider that the terrain of this debate most facilitated Dubya’s “9/11, 9/11, 9/11” strategy, Kerry’s got nowhere to go but up.

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