In the run up to the American presidential elections we will be asking a panel of voters to share their views on the key issues. Here they give their opinion on Thursday's debate between US President George W Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry.
I thought the structure of this debate would constrain the ability of each candidate to articulate his position.
I was wrong. I applaud both candidates for their flexibility and not being petty over minor points.
MEET THE PANEL
Name: Jim Hill
Lives: Sudbury, Massachusetts
Job: Equipment finance manager
Current voting intention: Republican
In 10 words or less: "Family man, business owner, community volunteer, gardener, fisherman, sports fan"
I thought that Kerry was a great speaker; better then President Bush, in fact. If I hadn't been paying attention to their records I'd have been more impressed.
Kerry has to hope that most undecided viewers haven't paid attention to his senate record and only watched tonight.
That said, I do not think that this debate changed any previously decided voters' opinions.
What you saw tonight from Kerry is why he has continued to be elected to the senate these last 20 years without ever actually accomplishing anything.
Kerry plays the 20/20 "after the fact" vision, questioning the process, while never providing a viable solution of his own.
However, I think many expected Bush to knock out Kerry. It didn't happen tonight.
I believe Bush was clear that his decisions on Iraq were based on the facts available at the time.
He has created a new Homeland Security agency and is rebuilding existing security agencies to protect America, while leading his domestic agenda.
Much work has been completed in a short time. Senator Kerry has never offered anything new himself.
Does any American want to wait until Kerry polls all of his many advisors and his perceived friendly foreign "leaders" into his "global test" before acting to protect America, or do they want someone who has a clear vision of what should be done now?
President Bush has a proven history of protecting Americans. Senator Kerry has little to show for his 20 years in the Senate.
In the end, the questions are - do you think liberating 26 million people is worth 1000 American lives? Will a free Iraq make America and the world safer? Which candidate do you trust to keep you safe? Those answers will decide this election.
Send us your comments on Jim's views using the form below.
Mr Hill, I thank you for your statements on the debate. It is exactly how I feel. I wish Bush would have told Kerry that his name dropping doesn't change his poor, 20-year voting record to protect the American people.
Monica Grant, Chattanooga, TN USA
I watched the whole debate and strongly disagree with Jim's opinion. One very important point that Kerry scored was that our country is not safer with Bush and his homeland security. Kerry drove home that point when he stated "Ninety-five percent of the containers that come into the ports...are not inspected, civilians get onto aircraft and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not X-rayed." Bush's personal vendetta against Hussein has wasted lives and resources better used in protecting the US homeland. Not to mention that we are hated by the Iraqis, who perceive the US as occupying their country and take it as an attack against their Muslim faith. Bush accomplished Bin Laden's goals by creating the biggest terrorist training ground in the Middle East: Iraq.
Jennifer Sordyl, Tumacacori, Arizona, USA
I must respectfully disagree with some of your assessments of the debate. It is my opinion that many of the undecided voters will support Senator Kerry after last night. You must remember that the topic of this debate is the area that the president is supposedly at his strongest.
Eric Ross, Oregon, USA
Jim, you make some good points, but let me ask you this: Before 2000 George W Bush hadn't travelled the world. Do you think he understood how the world worked or do you think he asked his advisers?
James, Livermore, Ca
Bush is consistent, frighteningly predictable in his ability to throw petrol on the flames. 9/11 happened on his watch. Bin Laden is still on the loose. More than 1000 American soldiers are dead and a low estimate of 13,000 civilian Iraqis are dead. The oil price has doubled, because the supply lines are now insecure. I'd like to ask, do you seriously consider Bush a success? Well do you?
Re: 'President Bush has a proven history of protecting Americans'. Four surprise, fatal attacks on the United States of America and the death of more than 3000 Americans during his term somewhat contradict this statement.
Meabh Cormacain, Recife
I really appreciate Jim's view as he seems to be a person who is open minded and informed enough to form a reasonable opinion. What strikes me as catastrophic in this and so many other opinions voiced in the US today is the mindset that a steadfast and clear vision is a positive alternative to a multifaceted approach. Strong convictions equals poor judgement! Sticking to your guns when you are wrong is just plain stupid and Bush continues to try to turn this negative trait of his into a strength.
Sidney Blank, Brooklyn, NY, USA
I disagree. I think Bush's folksy attitude is embarrassing. He speaks like an ignorant person. I do not trust the Homeland Security act. I think it is an excuse to create a "1984" type government in the US. Bush has destroyed the goodwill of the US in other countries and has made us suspect and frightening to them. Bush is an isolationist. Kerry has a plan to bring us all together in more of a global community, which makes us all safer.
Diane Jones, Tampa, Florida, US
Bush's actions in invading and occupying a sovereign nation has made Americans less safe. Americans are despised and hated in most countries in the world. The Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal has endangered the lives of American forces if they are ever captured by the enemy. In fact, we have seen that taking place already. This is a price we will be paying for decades if not longer. Stop thinking we are safer just because George Bush and Dick Cheney says so. Current events prove just the opposite.
Denise Rau, Fort Lauderdale, USA
Really Jim's view was a very good one. From his view he seems to be a thinker, analyst and a good listener. I commend all he said about both Bush and Kerry
Sule Tika, Damaturu, Nigeria
Jim asks: "Which candidate do you trust to keep you safe?" - Kerry summed up very nicely the difference between what they want and what the current administration continues to do: "the future belongs to freedom, not to fear".
Lucy Herman, Queens, NY, USA
While I appreciate Jim taking the time to comment on the debate, I would appreciate if he limited his comments to the debate itself. The additional questions at the end of his piece, as well as the discussion of Kerry and Bush's record, are not a critique of the debate but an expression of personal opinions regarding each candidate. This is the sort of bias that many in America dislike in our media, whether that bias be Democratic or, in this case, Republican in nature.