Kerry’s perceived [debate] victory may be attributed to the fact that, by a wide margin (62 percent to 26 percent), debate watchers felt the senator came across as more confident than the president. More than half (56 percent) also see Kerry has having a better command of the facts than Bush (37 percent). As a result, the challenger’s favorability ratings (52 percent, versus 40 percent unfavorable) are better than Bush’s, who at 49 percent (and 46 percent unfavorable), has dipped below the halfway mark for the first time since July. Kerry, typically characterized as aloof and out of touch by his opponents, came across as more personally likeable than Bush (47 percent to the president’s 41 percent).Look for Bush's campaign rhetoric to get more shrilly negative.
Why the change? Bush and his campaign had been doing battle with a strawman, a caricature of Kerry. But Thursday night, the real John Kerry showed up, and laid out clearly and crisply the mistakes and mismanagement in Bush's execution of the war on terror and in Iraq. It's a criticism Bush hasn't had to directly respond to before. It frustrated and annoyed Bush so much that he lost his way and got inanely redundant, more than once asking for a 30 second extension and and having nothing to say but the same stump speech lines he'd been uttering all night.
And of course, when he wasn't speaking, he was facially impolding.