It appears that Senator Kerry has stopped his bleeding for now and even opened a couple of wounds on President Bush. And this is just on foreign policy issues -- supposedly the president's strong suit. What now?
I said before the first debate -- on foreign policy -- that the best way for Kerry to increase his chances in the debate and the election itself would be to shift the focus from his own record and inconsistent positions on Iraq to President Bush. With the help of Old Media warhorse Jim Lehrer, Kerry was able to do just that.
I've reviewed the transcript of the debate to confirm my sense that Jim Lehrer, in his questions both to President Bush and Senator Kerry, mostly made the situation in Iraq the focus. He did give President Bush a couple of openings to make the case that Kerry's record is a gigantic red flag waving fervently against the prospect of Kerry becoming commander in chief, but President Bush politely declined the invitation.
The president must not make that mistake again. John Kerry is playing for keeps, and the president better take the gloves off. The public can't be expected to believe the foreign policy differences between President Bush and John Kerry matter that much if President Bush doesn't say so, passionately and without reserve.
But for now there seems to have been a significant momentum shift in the campaign toward Senator Kerry. And the Kerry folks aren't the only ones with a bounce in their step following the debate. The Old Media are positively giddy.
From ABC's "The Note" to the New York Times, the Old Media is palpably re-energized at the prospects that Kerry might just have turned this thing around even against their expectations. And some of them are going to continue their pro-active participation in swaying the election in Kerry's favor.
The New York Times on Sunday splashed its front page with the beginning of a 10,000-word story suggesting the Bush administration willfully ignored evidence that certain aluminum containers in Iraq were not likely for the production of nuclear weapons.