The short of it is that it proved more interesting than I thought it would be. Kerry did better than I thought he would. But Kerry did not surprise. He seemed to be himself and predictable, although was a bit nervous at the start. Everything he said he had said before, and was able to deflect some of Bushs attacks. Bush seemed to me to be a bit more feisty than I expected, maybe even more annoyed than he should have been. He even seemed ill at ease at times.
Perhaps Kerrys greatest virtue was that he emphasized that Iraq was a mistake and Bush didnt respond directly to his characterizations. But this is now a dangerous position for Kerry because he seems more than ever to be an anti-war candidate. This may revivify his base, but will not get him elected president. Interestingly Kerry never mentioned Vietnam (I think), although he made at least two references to his experience in war. It seems to me that Bush could have come back with greater force. It was interesting to note that Kerry used JFK and Reagan and the elder Bush (and Powell) to try to buttress his positions. Poor attempts, and the fact that he thought he needed to appeal to such authority is not to his advantage. But he couldnt, in the end, overcome the "multilateral" tone he always has and his "global test" remark was revealing and Bush took advantage of it. It should noted that Kerry endorsed (in his way) pre-emptive war. I liked Bushs emphasis on the connection between our strategic interests and freedom, and his closing remarks were effective. In all, Kerry may have helped himself by showing he had a grasp of policy, but his inconsistencies did not dissappear. He also showed that his persona is limited and not especially appealing. In the end, it was at best a draw for Kerry. Although Kerry may have done himself some good, it will no effect on the race (or the polls).