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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
US debate: What the commentators said
George Bush and John Kerry
Many pundits think the president improved on his earlier performance
US President George W Bush and John Kerry met in Missouri to debate the terror threat, Iraq and the economy.

US political commentators give their opinion on the second of the three debates between the White House contenders.

Jim Axelrod, CBS correspondent:

President Bush was forceful and passionate if you are a supporter, perhaps a bit wired... if you're not.

It was clearly a contrast to Senator Kerry who looked a little more low key and measured.

Chris Matthews, MSNBC correspondent:

Those were the two rams at the top of the hill pounding their heads together for an hour and a half, and it didn't move further in either direction.

Bob Schieffer, CBS correspondent:

Just as in the first debate, I thought that John Kerry got off to a much better start... I thought the best part of the president's presentation tonight was his closing statement when he truly seemed to be speaking from the heart.

I thought that the president did a little better tonight, but John Kerry is a very good debater.

Chris Wallace, Fox News correspondent:

George Bush came to play. He held John Kerry even at the very least.

Pat Buchanan, former presidential candidate and adviser to Republican administrations, on MSNBC:

I think the president was outstanding at times and he was spectacular at times. He did so much better than he did in Miami. It was a different man in the arena.

Mort Kondracke, editor, Roll Call political newspaper, on Fox News:

Kerry, in every way he could, tried to divert the attack that he was a flip-flopper and tried to make himself sound like a moderate.

I thought he was very effective. I thought the president was on defence a lot, explaining things and explaining them not very well.

Fred Barnes, executive editor, Weekly Standard, on Fox News:

If you cupped your ear you could hear Republicans all over the country and Bush supporters and the White House staff all giving a great sigh of relief... because President Bush did so much better than he did in the first debate.

Paul Begala, former adviser to President Clinton, on CNN:

The press will say it's a draw, but I think Kerry [was better than] Bush - or rather Bush made a few errors. Two words for President Bush: anger management. He spent much of the debate nearly yelling at the audience.

Mark Shields, political columnist, on PBS:

He just absolutely demolished the president's claims about the coalition in Iraq.

Brit Hume, Fox News correspondent:

Is it now fair to say that in each of these debates - in terms of marshalling arguments, and remembering them and presenting them - that this is something John Kerry has proved he is very good at? And that it doesn't play to the president's strong suit.

Bill Kristol, editor, Weekly Standard, on Fox News:

If you think the president was doing OK and didn't need a win in this debate, he did fine, but if one thinks that Bush missed an awful lot of opportunities to go after Kerry in the first debate, he had to make some of them up in this debate, I'm not sure he really succeeded in doing so.

John Harris, correspondent, Washington Post:

With two debates down and one to go... it did not seem likely that this debate will dramatically affect the dynamic of the campaign, in the way that Bush's weak performance in Miami clearly presented an opening for Kerry and tightened the polls to what is now essentially a tie.

New York Times editorial:

Mr Kerry demonstrated, at the very minimum, a stature that was equal to the president's. If Mr Bush was hoping to recover all the ground he lost last week, he failed in his mission. The president seemed to fall back frequently on name-calling, denouncing his opponent as a liberal and a tool of the trial lawyers. "The president's just trying to scare," Mr Kerry said. It will be another few weeks before we see how well that works.

Los Angeles Times editorial:

It's probably safe to assume that few minds were changed last night. Kerry showed once again he is a credible challenger, but Bush stabilised himself after his disastrous outing last week.

Dick Morris, pollster and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, New York Post:

Bush is back! The president finally showed the guts, determination and focus that earned him victories in the three debates with Al Gore. He finally did his homework. He focused on his briefing points and mobilised his rhetoric to win the second debate.

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