Even Jonah Goldberg (per Allah) thinks Kerry won, and I agree.
On the merits, he whipped the president, hands down; luckily, the GOP has some of the best spinners and operatives around, and debate performance is seen through the prism of post-debate spin, in part because millions who watch these debates don't know a damn thing about the particulars of what is being discussed.
And the morning papers--except the New York Post-- said not a word. The Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, and other old media found space to cover the decision of the Crawford, Texas' Lone Star Iconoclast--circulation 425--to endorse John Kerry, but refused to acknowledge a genuine, though bizarre, story that is actually having an impact on the race--because they collectively don't think it should be having an impact on the race.
This is doubly indefensible because candidate appearance stories have mattered in presidential debates from Nixon's sweat in 1960 to Gore's pancake in 2000. If Kerry's sudden play for the Great Pumpkin vote isn't gone or made over by tonight, millions of viewers won't get past his appearance to hear what he has to say about his many positions on Iraq because they won't be able to stop laughing.
Old media's refusal to note what ordinary Americans are talking about is the latest in a series of stubborn refusals that began with elitist indifference and ideological bent and which are ending in irrelevance. There have been others (Rathergate and Christmas-not-in-Cambodia) and there will be more.
GERGEN ON CNN: No knockout punches and no memorable lines, but one of the best debates I remember. Calls it a draw for the candidates.