Joel Mowbray

What Reagan did in the follow-up debate that had a much greater impact, however, was perhaps the most classic one-liner in recent memory: ?I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent?s youth and inexperience.?  Reaction shots showed a Walter Mondale beside himself, laughing harder than he probably had in months.

If there is one principal demerit for Bush last night, it would be that he never found his normally reliable sense of humor.  His passion was at times palpable, and at some moments, he showed a Clinton-esque softer side.  That was not enough.  To really put away the challenger, President Bush will need to turn on the charm in the next two debates in a way it just wasn?t on last night.

Luckily for Bush, the American people already know him.  Kerry had a tougher task, given that nearly half of respondents in most polls say they still don?t know enough about him. 

After this debate, the general feeling most probably will have is that Kerry is critical of Bush?quelle surprise!?but they still will not have any idea what John Kerry would do as president.  And if he can?t accomplish that in the next two debates, he probably won?t be given the chance to show them.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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