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.
Kerry came out on the offensive and from the beginning of the debate had George W Bush on the defensive.
Kerry used facts to implicate Bush and refute his positions on a number of issues and Bush, having to veer from his script, wasn't able to defend himself very well.
MEET THE PANEL
Name: Linda Alston
Lives: Madison, Wisconsin
Works: Publications co-ordinator, currently unemployed
Current voting intention: Democrat
In 10 words or less:
"Intuitive and analytical, often right but not always"
Certainly, when he followed his script, Bush scored some good points, most having to do with Kerry's inconsistent position on Iraq.
The president's most effective defence was charging Kerry with delivering a "mixed message" and referring to his inconsistent voting record with regards to the war.
The accusations are valid and constituted an effective weapon to parry Kerry's attack.
Kerry eventually disarmed Bush by using some pretty effective rhetoric of his own to defuse the charges and largely mitigate their impact.
Actually, both candidates used a lot of scripted non-speak.
Kerry's responses to the questions seemed substantial because he used factual data to bolster them. Bush offered the same spin he's been brandishing the last several months; everything is going according to plan in Iraq, we're fighting terrorists in Iraq, the world's a safer place, ad nauseam.
There were times when Kerry stuck to his script and missed opportunities to refute some of Bush's assertions.
But the night belonged to John Kerry. His performance was impressive given his demonstrated awkwardness when in front of an audience.
He appeared to have done his homework and had facts to offer, not just sound bites. He was proactive when he presented his ideas on homeland security and aggressive when dismantling Bush's defence of his handling of the war.
Most importantly, Kerry was not distracted by the expected Bush tactic of labelling him a "flip flopper." Bush appeared more and more nervous and out of his element as the debate went on.
Oddly, this less-than seamless performance made Bush more appealing. I actually felt compassion for the man.
Send us your comments on Linda's views using the form below.
I totally agree that the night belonged to Kerry. I certainly did not feel compassion for Bush. We need Kerry as our next commander-in-chief.
Mary fusilier, Baton Rouge, LA-USA
I have to admit, I think Kerry beat out Bush in the debate. However, Kerry is still dodging his flip-flops with generalised, unclear explanations. Many people have written that they are tired of hearing Bush accuse Kerry of being a flip-flopper, but take it seriously: Can you vote for an indecisive, poll-driven man to be commander-in-chief?
Tim, Bethesda, MD, USA
I don't think that Bush's statement that Kerry flip-flopped went unparried. I remember Kerry claiming that he had been consistent in his views the whole way through. His voting record changed course when he realized that the administration was going about the Iraq matter in the wrong way. He claimed to have honestly believed that the president was going to exhaust all the alternatives to war before resorting to it. It sort of made Bush seem like the "flip flopper".
Matt Barros, San Jose, Ca, US
I concur 99% with this lady's views. The only point at which I differ is the statement that Bush scored some points contending that Kerry is sending a "mixed message", etc. While this may score points with Bush's die-hard constituents, it is wearing out like an overused record, and is gradually revealing that Bush has no real substance in what he says - even with his formerly loyal followers.
Ed Eubank, Winston-Salem, North Carolina USA
That "compassion" you felt for Bush, must have been "pity". I too felt sorry for the little guy. He has been beaten by the better man for the job. I look for an intelligent person to lead the country--a person well-read, intuitive, and able to adjust to reality. John Kerry will make a fine President.
Gordon Roth, Delaware, USA
From the beginning, I also thought Bush was on the defensive. I was hoping to hear clear and well thought-out answers from Bush but I became lost in his tiresome flip-flopping accusations. Bush was not consistent with fact base answers. At times, I felt Bush was slightly unclear, almost mumbling and looked tired and bothered to be there, I felt the guy was burning in pressure. Kerry was focused and although he missed many opportunities on rebutting Bush, he did a better job than a tired Bush.
Zendi, Los Angeles, USA
Linda's views were very similar to my own. Her commentary was right on. John Kerry was very presidential last night. In spite of Bush's once again labelling him a flip-flopper Kerry stayed calm and held his ground. What I find odd is that no one questions Bush's flip flops.
John Crowley, Hartford, CT, USA
One can tell that you sincerely and honestly gave your assessment much thought, and it is very objective, and indeed very impartial. But you come off like a bleeding heart liberal when you say Bush's "less-than seamless performance made Bush more appealing. I actually felt compassion for the man." I cannot feel compassion for man whose policies have resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 Americans. Let's vote him out and stop the bloodshed.
Martin, Chicago, USA
How can you say Kerry did good? First of all Kerry was inconsistent in the debate himself. He claimed that we should have used the UN and other nations to negotiate with Iraq yet he was not willing to use the UN and other nations in dialogues with North Korea but wanted a one on one meeting with them. Another problem was that he evaded the questions. One of the questions asked what Kerry would do? In response, Kerry went on to show how Bush was doing it wrong never giving us specifics as to what he would do.
Michael Moeller, Greenville, SC
The best thing about the debate was that it was civilized, structured and informative. The people were the real winner. There were none of the constant interruptions or bickering of past debates. Overall I think John Kerry concisely pointed out the current president's failures and his refusal to own up to the mistakes with the current foreign policy.
Michael K, Pittsburgh, US
Kerry came out as self-confident and effective; Bush faltered and at times wilted under the pressure of facts and cogent arguments from Kerry. I largely agree with the assessment of this panellist.
Vishnu Pootna, Belgaum, India