“Kerry found a well-rehearsed Bush in round two of the Presidential debate. Bush’s efforts, however, fell short as your political cow scores it 9 to 5 (out of 10) in favor of Kerry.

Bush was on the defensive the entire night when the conversation turned to Iraq.  Although he delivered his talking points in a variety of ways (as opposed to repeating the same line ten times in the first debate), he was ineffective in offsetting the majority of Kerry’s comments. 

For the most part, Bush played into Kerry’s “more of the same” theme.  Bush would talk about his Iraq policy, and provide a near perfect lead in to Kerry’s next comment.  For instance, Nikki Washington asked the President,

NIKKI: “What is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?”

Bush’s response consisted of mentioning Ronald Regan, identifying a series of issues that have caused rifts with the world and finally concluding,

BUSH: “People love America. Sometimes they don’t like the decisions made by America, but I don’t think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing.”

Kerry then wasted no time with his answer,

KERRY: “The president stood right here in this hall four years ago, and he was asked a question by somebody just like you, ‘Under what circumstances would you send people to war?’
“And his answer was, ‘With a viable exit strategy and only with enough forces to get the job done.’
“He didn’t do that. He broke that promise. We didn’t have enough forces.”

Time and again, the President delivered rehearsed and coached arguments.  Kerry, as always, wasted no time to invalidate the President’s responses.

At one point, when the topic turned to the “back-door draft,” a frustrated Bush fiercely redirected the topic of conversation to our alliances, rather than discussing his stop-loss policies.

BUSH: “Let me answer what he just said, about around the world.”
GIBSON: “Well, I want to get into the issue of the back-door draft… “
(Bush practically screams his next line in order to stop Gibson from addressing the issue of dubious stop-loss policies)
BUSH: “You tell Tony Blair we’re going alone! …“

Bush continued to mumble about the coalition and finally set Kerry up for yet another knock out blow,

KERRY: “If Missouri, just given the number of people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, were a country, it would be the third largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and the United States. “
“That’s not a grand coalition. “
As Kerry stated in the debate, the Bush campaign has acted as nothing more than a “weapon of mass deception.” Bush’s increased marks are earned for improved presentation.  I was impressed that the President was able to say the same thing in 10 different ways, rather than saying the same thing 10 different times.  Of course, this falls miserably short of being effective. 

Anything short of a miracle in the final debate will guarantee a victory for Kerry in the popular vote by 2 or 3 percentage points. Look for more aggressive and distorted political ads from the Republicans in the next week.