Round One in Debates Goes to Kerry Say Readers

Readers give the first presidential debate to John Kerry.

From all indications, this year’s presidential election is a close contest.

What will entice voters to vote for one candidate over another?

A majority of readers responding to our poll taken over the last several days think the presidential debates will impact the outcome. 53% of those responding think the debates will have an impact while 30% do not think it will make a difference. The remaining 17% are undecided. 93% of those responding to the poll had watched the first debate.

Those who say it will have an impact may be right. 29% of readers responding to the survey said the first debate did influence their choice for president this year. And, while 67% said it would not have any influence on their decision, any national candidate who thinks he can influence 29% of voters will pay attention.

And, in the biggest turnaround in our poll, 55% of those responding said they would vote for John Kerry. 37% said they would vote for George Bush. 7% were undecided and the remainder were split between Ralph Nader and “other.”

The polls reflect the national trend of a close race as the electorate seems to move toward one candidate or the other depending on a variety of events. In our poll taken at the end of August, 51% of readers responding selected President Bush as their choice in November and only 43% indicated they were voting for John Kerry. In earlier polls (see the links on the left hand side of this page), readers had gone for Kerry over Bush.

In this instance, it is apparent most readers thought Kerry did a better job than Bush in their first debate. 72% said they thought John Kerry would benefit the most from the debate. 14% thought George Bush would benefit the most. 11% did not think the debate would help either candidate.

As expected, readers voiced strong opinions on the issue. Here is a small sample.

  • A computer specialist from DFAS in Indianapolis wrote: “Kerry was very articulate and on top of his games. Bush looked lost and knows his time is limited.”
  • A human resources specialist with the EPA in Durham, NC says “George Bush looked like he wanted to be somewhere else but debating John Kerry. It’s obvious that Bush is ill at ease in anything but a staged Pep rally. neither candidate really fleshed out the issues. lets hope for a better debate next time.”
  • And a project leader with USDA in New Haven, CT had this opinion: “Anyone who thought that George Bush performed well on the first debate must be deaf, dumb, or simply too biased to be objective!”
  • An electronics technician with the Bureau of Prisons in Minnesota said: “Kerry had command of the issues and showed he is the leader we need right now. The President sounded like a broken record, he had no new ideas.”
  • A customer relations manager with the FDA in Washington, DC has found the answer he (or she) is seeking: “time for a change —- peace, economic recovery; health care for everybody, education……”
  • Some readers were less harsh in their judgment. This secretary from Hanscom AFB, MA commented: “I think debates somewhat help the people to see how their candidates can handle themselves however, I don’t think they will make or break either candidate. The thing that upset me the most is that the moderator never seems to press either person for the answer to his/her question, if it isn’t answered properly. During the first debate John Kerry was asked a question about how he would do certain things if he was President and he skirted around with a reply that he would do something….nothing specific. They should be pressed to answer the question without being vague.”

On the other side, this labor relations specialist with Homeland Security in Washington, DC had this to say: “Slick John showed up well, but steady George gets the nod.”

  • A mechanical engineer with the Military Sealift Command in Virginia Beach sent in this comment: “Kerry clearly won the first debate with style over substance. How this affects the outcome Nov. 2 remains to be seen. It is a bit scary, though, that people just now tuning in to the political process may be swayed by the glibness of Kerry. It is well known that Bush has an uncanny ability to mangle the English language and appeared uncomfortable or tired buring (sic) the first debate. However, don’t ‘misunderestimate’ him. Four weeks in politics can seem like a lifetime. Stay tuned.”
  • A program manager with DoD in Fayetteville, NC wrote: “Like Don Imus, I thought the President won the debate on substance…. until I listened to the pundits! Don’t confuse being articulate with being correct. I admit that the President isn’t too quick with a phrase but that is the same quality that I want in a leader. I want someone in charge who will not react without carefully thinking about the alternatives, ergo, 9-11. Kerry would have popped up out of that chair and started giving orders left and right. ‘W’ finished what he was doing and then went about the business of kicking butt. Also, Kerry demeaned every relative of every veteran.”
  • A human resources specialist with the Treasury Department in Damascus, MD had this thought: “I am not closed minded, but the debates will not change my upcoming vote for President Bush. John Kerry, in my opinion, may be articulate and deliver a better debate presence, but he is an empty suit whose past performance in Congress has been a void of insignificance. His platform skills do not translate into leadership. He has shown no leadership in spite of his brave talk and vote getting promises. On issues, he has done more flip flops than a circus acrobat.”
  • And an engineer with the Forest Service in Colorado sent in this thought: “Debate is a misnomer. This is too controlled and then ‘spun’ out of sight following. I hear Kerry (scary) say no nuclear proliferation but implies the disarming of US and Bush contrary in mantaining and advancing our missle system. Lay down your arms America and get shot! Oh yeh, before this (is) through, ask permission from the world of enemy nations. Oh yeh, kiss you TSP gains goodby!”

Will readers change their mind again before the election in November? It would not be surprising in an election this close.

Thanks to all readers who took the time to send in their votes and their comments.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47