Presidential Debate-Spin
University of Miami - Coral Gables, FL - September 30, 2004

S N I P P E T S   F R O M   T H E   S P I N   R O O M
Bush-Cheney '04

Ken Mehlman, BC'04 Campaign Manager
...explain them in an overall way but instead added more contradictions which further, I think, undermined his credibility.  

Again, the key question that the American people are looking to--they're not saying are things great or things hard in Iraq.  Both candidates agree things are hard in Iraq.  What the American people are looking to see is, given that things are hard in Iraq, who has the leadership qualities for victory, to make America safe.  And what they heard from John Kerry was more contradictions, more back and forth, which makes him less credible as the solution to the problem.

not sure who this is (taped but forgot to include name)
Now President Bush I think spoke from the heart, and spoke as a president who has the experience of 3 1/2 years of prosecuting the war on terror, that the difficult work we're doing in Iraq and around the world is necessary work for the freedom of our grandchildren.  He articulated that.  He spoke to the realities on the ground.  But what he demonstrated is that you can be both realistic about what's happening on the ground and be optimistic about the future of Iraq, that those aren't competing values, optimism and realism, and he demonstrated that tonight by showing he understands the hard realities of war and understands the consequences of his decision, talking very personally about a conversation he had with a mother of a-- a wife of a fallen soldier who fought both in Afghanistan and Iraq.  What this demonstrates is President Bush understands the realities of war but also has the plan to win it.  And that's really where the difference came at the end of the day.  Because what the public is looking for is who has the plan for the future...

Kerry-Edwards 2004

Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Chair of the Kerry-Edwards Campaign
Reporter: What in your opinion happened tonight?  It seemed like there was no clear winner.  Would you agree with that assessment?

No I actually think John Kerry was very strong.  He put the president on the defensive from the very beginning.  We saw George Bush refuse to acknowledge the situation in Iraq and what's happening there.  He had no plan for what he would do to address it that's any different that what we have now.  He didn't acknowledge the terrible cost of that war both in dollars and in lives, and I think we saw John Kerry strong, refuting Bush's attacks, and we saw his convictions on the war, and mostly we saw a very different world view.  

Gen. McPeak (ret.)
...the Senator's problem is not to beat him so bad that' it's an embarrasment and causes some kind of sympathy reaction.  So I think you saw a great new--you saw your 44th president in action tonight.

Senator Kerry did everything he needed to do to show the American people their next president.  Whereas for me Bush seemed kind of disengaged.  I know he's uncomfortable in this kind of format, but I've often thought we need a sort of a "Leave No President Behind" program, you know kind of give him tests regularly to make sure he's doing his homework.  Seemed like to me he missed--you know he threw up a lot of airballs.  In fact I think he's in the airball hall of fame.

Reporter: What were the airballs?

He's just off point.  Didn't answer the question.  I mean what is his plan to get us out of this mess in Iraq.  I never heard it.  The American people never heard it.  An airball.  But they talked about 20 issues and they wer all airballs so as I sayk the airball hall of fame.

Sen. Bob Graham
The challenge that John Kerry had tonight was like John Kennedy in 1960 to convince the American people that he was presidential.  John Kennedy was seen as being youthful, inexperienced, maybe even callow and therefore suspect.  When he had that first debate with Richard Nixon at the end of that people may not have said I'm going to vote for John Kennedy but at least I think he's at the same level as Nixon, and I'll give him serious consideration.  I believe that was what happened tonight.  

Now on ths specific issue of differentiating between the war against terror in Afghanistan and Somalia, Yemen and the other places where it's got to be fought and the war in Iraq, I think that difference still needs to be clarified.  And if you want to know what the points of that clarification would be, I would recommend a book called Intelligence Matters [by Sen. Bob Graham], which I think lays out the case of why those were two different wars and the consequences of Bush failing to recognize that.