Real test for candidates will be final debate in Tempe
Friday's presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis was a prime opportunity for President Bush to make up for the bumbling and lackluster performance he gave during the kick-off debate.
Realizing that he had to redeem himself in the eyes of voters Friday, Bush showed up more prepared and articulate.
The town hall meeting format worked to his advantage, giving Bush the chance to demonstrate his strongest suit, his ability to appeal to his constituents as an average American. By capitalizing on his charisma and basic likeability, Bush recouped his campaign and has recovered much in terms of his public image.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kerry's performance reinforced his attempt to project himself as a competent and appealing character. Though he is not as approachable as Bush, Kerry made up for it through his basic preparedness.
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for Kerry is running against an incumbent president, a man who has had four years of unabated press coverage. Kerry has succeeded in cultivating a much more likeable and accessible public persona in the past few months.
But if this second debate had any purpose, it was not to establish the candidates' positions. The 18 questions chosen by moderator Charles Gibson were mostly shallow in content. They basically rehashed and regurgitated what had been asked in the previous debate, and no new ground was covered. Iraq again dominated the debate ad nauseum. Answers to other questions on foreign and domestic policy were stock and formulaic.
Rather than articulating the policies they would implement, the candidates were concerned with demonstrating their rhetorical skills - instead of discussing their goals and plans as president.
This second debate was insignificant fluff compared to the crucial, make-or-break debate slated in Tempe Wednesday.
Serving as little more than an obligation, the St. Louis debate displayed Kerry and Bush as personalities, rather than the leaders they set out to be.
Public opinion is not likely to be swayed significantly in either direction as a result of this debate. A draw here only puts more pressure on the final debate. Because it will be one of the last opportunities Kerry and Bush have to sway undecided voters, they must pull out all the stops.
With such a close election, neither candidate can afford to treat the last debate lightly. St. Louis didn't really matter. It's Tempe where the political futures of Kerry and Bush will be decided.
Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of their members. They are Brett Fera, Caitlin Hall, Susan Bonicillo, Andrea Kelley, Nate Buchik and Evan Caravelli.