The eyes of the world are upon St. Louis, Missouri this evening as Washington University again hosts a Presidential Debate. While reporters and pundits have claimed over the years that debates do not have a make-or-break effect on the Presidential election, the recent swing in Senator Kerry's momentum in the 10 days since he and President Bush first went toe-to-toe may put an end to that assumption.
Certainly the change in voter's evaluation of the candidates is not simply due to Bush's awful showing at the first debate. The news over the past week, increased fighting in Iraq, the Duelfer report and Cheney's outright lies in the Vice Presidential debate have certainly put a dampener on the Bush campaign. Even the New York Times is at the point where they are running out of ways of saying the President lied and is continuing to lie.
Others have written more extensively on the extent to which the Bush campaign is out of touch with reality. The Duelfer report alone has pretty much put the administration's spinning rationale for the Iraq war to bed. As Digby points out, via Atrios, the disconnect is so complete that Cheney's assertion that Hussein's intent to reassemble his weapons programs if sanctions were lifted was a reason to go to war. Yet Cheney fails to disclose that while he was CEO, Haliburton worked to ease sanctions and subsidiaries of Haliburton were doing business with Iraq despite the sanctions. This is not to imply that Cheney himself was attempting to subvert the law, but if he wasn't aware of the companies actions then it goes to how effective a CEO he was.
Others have covered the declining rationality of the Bush campaign far more extensively (Talking Points Memo, Political Animal, and Atrios) than I ever will.
The beginning of the troubles for the Bush campaign did not come with Bush's flubbing the first debate. The beginning came when the media could no longer ignore reality.
After the first debate, people have high expectations for Kerry, if he stumbles, they could multiply the effect. It's just the reverse with Bush. If he does a decent job and comes off as "average guy", he could win back some ground. It will all depend on the media's handling of this. If they decide to again ignore what their eyes and ears are telling them, then it will be a toss-up.
Remember, it took days before the media consensus would admit that Bush did a lousy job, not decent or okay, but lousy.
9 hours ago