Strange position for me - missed the debate itself, watching nothing but spin and talking heads analysis (which, sad to say, usually matters more). And guess what, Kerry slaughtered the President. It was almost unanimous - and even the GOPers defending Bush said, basically, that both men made good points. Jon Stewart buried the President, and even Joe Scarborough called it for Kerry. Morton Kondracke saying Kerry looked Presidential. Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw: Kerry clear victor. Now, let's watch the polls. (Will provide links to cogent analysis as we move on - and I'll actually watch the debate on tape).
UPDATE: Atrios says it simply: "Kerry presidential. Bush smirked." Says Kos: " Bush was defensive and angry; Kerry was calm and collected." Fred has an interesting take: "The media probably wants to see a horse race and so will be tempted to say that Kerry did great and he's back in it. If that's not the spin, I'll be surprised."
UPDATE II: Frequent commentor here, Tom K., certainly no Democrat, says this: "I think Kerry has made by far the better impression, which is no easy task given the topic and his record on the war. He's missed a few opportunities and the format precludes anything profound or comprehensive, but most of his answers have been better than average and most of Bush's below average."
UPDATE III: MSNBC's lead is all Kerry: "Sen. John Kerry assailed President Bush’s prosecution of the war in Iraq in the first presidential debate Thursday night, accusing the president of “a colossal error of judgment” as the candidates finally faced each other after a torrent of speeches and hostile television advertisements." John McCain on Larry King: "I thought that John Kerry did a good job style-wise. I think that the president was very convincing in his conviction that what he has done is right, what he will do is correct." Advantage Kerry there. MSNBC.com debate poll of 475K online users: 71% Kerry, 29% Bush.
UPDATE IV: Fox lead is close to neutral (ie, a huge Kerry win): "John Kerry slammed President Bush Thursday for taking the United States into war in Iraq without enough global support, while the commander in chief said he doesn't need a permission slip from the rest of the world to protect America and its interests." CNN's John King just said: "It's clear President Bush didn't give his best performance tonight." Mikie Barnicle: People are going to say around the watercooler "yeah I think that guy could be President."
UPDATE V: Howard Fineman: "Kerry looked every inch a President." Joe Scarborough: "I'll say it as a Republican, John Kerry was more Presidential than President Bush tonight." Hard-right blogger Glenn Reynolds gives Kerry some pretty decent props, along with a swipe: "Kerry was tougher than I had expected, which is good -- except that you never know what he'll say next time. If I hadn't been paying attention to the campaign, though, I'd be fairly impressed -- and Kerry has to hope that most people who watched the debate fall into that category." Wow, conservative blog QandO (one of the best conservative blogs, quite a good read) says this: "Kerry, I think, did very well tonight. He was much clearer and more focused than he usually is. He did a good job of hitting on what he perceives to be the weak points of the Bush Administration’s conduct of foreign policy." That is GOP blogosphere equivalent of a grand slam.