OK, I AM GOING TO UNINTENTIONALLY FRUSTRATE MANY OF MY READERS TONIGHT. Like Josh Marshall, I tried to stay away from the spin — assemble my thoughts fast before they became infected by others.
Josh provides a great summation of the debate on his site and he sees the entire evening as a huge victory for John Edwards.
I don’t. Yes, I know that Cheney goofed, or lied, about meeting John Edwards. Here is the proof.
I also think that Cheney’s comment — that suicide bombing is on the decline because the Hussein funds have dried up to incentivize people to blow themselves up and kill others — is quite inane…but probably not something that many Americans will get wrapped up in.
Cheney’s comments on the costs and casualties in the war were mostly fabricated, but Edwards — despite being armed by truth and youthful vigor — seemed steam-rolled in the end by Cheney’s convictions, rigid certainty, and righteousness.
Edwards got a lot of good blows in, but not enough to win the debate, which in my view was not a memorable debate to begin with.
The biggest reason why I think that George Bush won tonight is that Cheney made him disappear.
Bush was mentioned only 9 times tonight — 4 times by Cheney, twice by Edwards and 3 times by Gwen Ifill.
In contrast, Kerry was mentioned 64 times overall — 34 times by Edwards, and an additional 30 times by Ifill and Cheney. Two of the times Edwards invoked Kerry’s name he was breaking Gwen Ifill’s rules in the debate.
This night became about what Kerry was for or against, but Bush as a target simply vanished.
That is the most important reason why I think Bush/Cheney won tonight. They got what they wanted.
I expect a lot of feedback on this, much of it pretty angry.
You can read my UPI article on this here. Three other UPI stories ran tonight — all of them at odds with my own take. So, in the spirit of fair and balanced, see the following:
Judges: Attack-dog Edwards Won Veep Debate by Donna Borak
Cheney, Edwards Pull No Punches by Richard Tomkins
Commentary: Edwards Ekes Out Veep Debate Victory by Martin Sieff

Outside View: George Bush — Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Steven Clemons

As promised, I will share here on analysis I see it — whether it runs with the conventional current or the contrarian.
— Steve Clemons