All Three Network Polls Declare Kerry the Winner Once Again --10/14/2004
2. FNC Sees Bush Win, But Other Nets Paint Kerry as the Victor
3. Some Denounce Liberal Label as "Tinny" and a "Tired Horse"
4. Decrying & Admiring Kerry for Raising Mary Cheney's Sexuality
5. Moderator Schieffer's Questions Hit Candidates from the Left
6. "Top 10 President Bush Explanations for the Bulge in His Jacket"
All three network "snap" polls conducted after Wednesday night's presidential debate, held at Arizona State University in Tempe, declared John Kerry the winner -- CBS and CNN by wide margins, ABC by a single point.
After skipping it for the second debate, CBS News resurrected its Web-based survey of about 200 "uncommitted" people who called Kerry the winner by 39 percent to 25 percent over President Bush and the percent who said Kerry "had clear positions" doubled. CNN's Bill Schneider relayed how those in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 511 registered voters who watched the debate gave it to "Kerry by a decisive margin, 13 points, 52 to 39 percent," which meant that "Kerry was perceived to be the winner, by viewers, of all three debates." Schneider added that unlike in the previous debates, more "thought Kerry was the one who agreed with them more on the issues they cared about."
ABC's poll of 566 registered voters found a near-even split, 42 percent who thought Kerry won to 41 percent who went with Bush, but Peter Jennings was quick to point out how respondents tilted toward the GOP since of those reached by pollsters, 38 percent "identified themselves as Republicans, 30 percent as Democrats."
-- CBS News. Toward the end of CBS's 10:30pm EDT post-debate half hour, Anthony Mason, at the Manhattan set with Dan Rather, ran through the numbers collected in the Knowledge Networks survey via Web TV of "uncommitted" voters:
With a scale on screen to illustrate positive and negative feedback, Mason elaborated: "As these voters watched, they registered their approval or disapproval of the candidates on a sliding scale. Going into this debate, nearly two-thirds of the voters in this survey said they thought the state of the economy was bad. When President Bush was asked about the preventing the outsourcing of jobs overseas, watch the response. It actually goes negative. [Bush clip] Now, watch the meter turn up when Kerry responds. [Kerry clip] Now, the President did score well when he talked about his tax cuts. [Bush clip]
For the CBSNews.com rundown of the responses from 211 people: www.cbsnews.com
For the CNN.com summary of the poll results: www.cnn.com
Five minutes later, Jennings delivered the results: "We manage, now, to have the results of our poll, which we have taken immediately after the debate itself. Five hundred and sixty-six people were called this evening -- we'll identify them in a second. But first, pretty much of a tie-off, at least at this first stage: 42 percent think Mr. Kerry won, 41 percent think Mr. Bush, and 14 percent think it was a tie. Now, here is the party identification of the debate viewers we were able to talk to tonight -- other people were either not at home, watching the ball game. Even though the audience appears to have been quite large for tonight, we reached 38 percent, people that identified themselves as Republicans, 30 percent as Democrats, and 28 percent Independents. But the bottom line is, maybe not the bottom line, our poll line tonight is 41 percent for Mr. Bush and 42 percent for Mr. Kerry."
For the ABCNews.com posting of their survey findings: abcnews.go.com
Just past 11pm EDT, Weekly Standard Publisher Bill Kristol argued on FNC that while "maybe I'm wrong, I just think it's a smashing victory for Bush. I think the instant polls will show it. I think the mainstream media will have to acknowledge it." Kristol was zero for two regarding the media with the snap polls coming in for Kerry (see item #1 above) and virtually all the analysts and reporters on the other networks either giving the night to Kerry or refraining from picking a winner.
On CBS, John Roberts described the debate as "a really tough one to call," but "I would probably have to give it to John Kerry." Roberts contended that "what you saw up there tonight really was two people who could be President."
CNN's Jeff Greenfield asserted that "neither one of these candidates did themselves nearly as much good as they could have. I think that, by default, gives it to Kerry because that's where the campaigns seem to be drifting." CNN analyst Carlos Watson piped up: "I'll accept Jeff's analysis and I'll say that Kerry won and that Kerry's now three for three."
Over on ABC, Dean Reynolds suggested that Kerry's numbers "have been moving in the right direction for the last ten days," and "this debate did nothing to stop that," so "from the Kerry point of view, they'll be happy about the results tonight."
Liberal PBS and NPR host Tavis Smiley joined ABC's team. He credited Kerry for how he "brought up faith first. He brought up God first." Smiley also championed, in the form of a complaint, how "as an African-American voter, I was pleased that we finally, after four debates, albeit in the last 15 minutes of the debate, finally got to issues that matter to people of color."
Mark Halperin, ABC's Political Director, scolded Kerry for not hitting Bush hard enough on tax cuts since "the absolute dollar figures have gone to wealthier Americans. That's been one of the Democrats' main talking points. I don't think he hit that particularly hard."
On MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell saw "a very strong debate for both," but she decided that "by invoking John Kennedy," Kerry "cleared up any confusion that might have existed about how he as a Catholic is dealing with this very complex issue."
Kristol, who also maintained that "Bush knocked Kerry out tonight" and had "slaughtered him," found support from his FNC colleagues. "If he had done as well in the first debate as he did tonight, he'd have a much bigger lead in this race," Fred Barnes predicted. Jim Angle echoed: "I think it's fair to say this was the President's best performance of the three debates." And Morton Kondracke trumpeted: "This makes Bush the 'Comeback Kid' of these debates."
Now, a further rundown of the post-debate assessments offered by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and FNC following the third and final presidential debate held at Arizona State University in Tempe. As in previous debates, NBC's Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert traveled to the debate site, but the ABC and CBS anchors stayed in New York as did the FNC analyst team, though all had reporters on scene. All of the MSNBC and CNN on-air personnel were in Tempe (CNN until 12am EDT, MSNBC until 2am EDT).
-- ABC News, as monitored by Jessica Anderson with tips from Rich Noyes:
# Jennings/Halperin. Peter Jennings cued up Halperin to list a missed chance only for Kerry: "Mark, as you listened to Senator Kerry tonight, did you think he missed opportunities to respond to the President on issues such as health care?"
# Tavis Smiley, via satellite from California: "There were, I think, for me at least, two moments; one moment as an American voter and, might I add, another moment as an African-American voter. As an American voter, the moment for me where I do disagree respectfully with your colleagues, is that I think that Senator Kerry, if you recall from the debate, he went and got faith first. He brought up faith first. He brought up God first. He quoted Scripture first. Mr. Bush only went there when asked near the end of the debate by Mr. Schieffer. So I think that Mr. Kerry was very clear that there is a growing number, a large number of Americans who do have an abiding faith. He went there first and reminded us, later in the debate, that he had gone there first, number one. That's my sense as an American voter.
# Dean Reynolds, from the spin room: "Well, Peter, I think the candidate whose numbers have been moving in the right direction for the last ten days has been Senator John Kerry. This debate did nothing to stop that, and I think, from the Kerry point of view, they'll be happy about the results tonight."
# Jim Axelrod, in Tempe: "At the end of the day, this was about the critical impact on undecided voters. And because so much familiar ground was plowed, because this was more or less 90 minutes of greatest hits from both men's stump speeches, I'm not sure very much was done by way of moving undecideds. Thirteen days ago, when this debate process started, 20 percent of the voters were seen as uncommitted. Either undecided in a traditional sense, or committed but still could be moved. Coming into tonight, that number was 18 percent. And I'm not sure if very much took place tonight that's gonna nudge undecided voters, or uncommitted voters, even more."
# John Roberts, in Tempe: "Well, Dan, certainly there were lots of highs and lots of lows, as Jim Axelrod just illuminated. This one's a really tough one to call in terms of who might have come out the winner. I would probably have to give it to John Kerry. He seemed a little bit more poised. Don't forget he's got a lot more experience in this type of podium type of debate. But the two of them, as Jim said, were very conversant in the issues. I think what you saw up there tonight really was two people who could be President. There were two Presidents up on the stage, and for undecided voters, I think really now it's just a matter of which one you like better. I mean, they both obviously have their own positions, different as they may be. They both have quite a comprehensive command of the facts. So really an undecided voter has to take a look at the measure of the man and say, 'Who do I want to have coming into my living room for the next four years?' and make up their mind that way...."
# Dan Rather quipped: "I may be wrong, but I think some people will look at this third debate and say you needed a 'speed-yawning' course to get through it."
# Tim Russert, inside the venue: "I don't think it changed very much tonight, Tom. I think it's going to continue now for people to maker up their minds. Do they want to change or keep the President there? Two interesting strategies that were so apparent. John Kerry openly campaigning for support of women. Constant references to children. Talking about minimum wage, nine million women will get a salary increase, 76 cents on the dollar, and on and on. George Bush trying very, very hard to say John Kerry is out of the mainstream. I was somewhat surprised that John Kerry didn't counter by going back after the President, saying well you're part of the radical right and just trying to engage in that particular vein. One thing that also surprised me was when Bob Schieffer asked what would you say to a worker who lost his job to someone overseas who is getting less money. Neither candidate addressed that in a personal way. 'Let me talk to that worker. Look 'em in the eye, in her eyes, grab their hand and talk to them. It was very much a debate steeped in data and statistics. And I wonder how much it connected with the American people, because I think that's what they were looking for tonight."
# Tom Brokaw to Rudy Giuliani: "It's well known that you have differences with the President on a number of these issues as well. Tonight he defended the idea of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in this country. You're one who has looked favorably on the idea of expanding gay rights in American society. Have you talked to him about that directly?"
# NBC wrapped up with Russert breaking out his scribble board to show how Bush is safe in 25 states totaling 217 electoral votes while Kerry has 14 states and DC with 200 electoral votes. Russert argued the winner will be whomever wins two of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
# Jeff Greenfield, immediately after the debate: "In terms of who this campaign is about, whether it's about Bush's record or Kerry's record, my own feeling is this debate was so awash in numbers and figures, that I think if the audience was looking for a sharp answer as to whether to rehire the President or hire this new leader, I'm not sure they got a lot of answers. This sounded more like one of those Sunday morning debates between two candidates for Senator than a debate in which anyone sounded like they had the bearing of a Commander-in-Chief -- maybe that helps Kerry because Bush is the Commander-in-Chief. But I thought neither candidate used this debate to their full opportunity."
# Greenfield: "I think to the extent that the Republicans were looking for the President to lay the heavy lumber on John Kerry, that did not happen. And so if we've gone through these last ten days with Kerry slowly moving up on Bush, I don't see anything in this debate that will change that, but I sure don't think this was John Kerry's strongest debate either. I'm not trying to waffle; I really think it was a debate where neither one of these candidates did themselves nearly as much good as they could have. I think that, by default, gives it to Kerry because that's where the campaigns seem to be drifting - drifting, not moving quickly, drifting."
(The MRC's Tim Graham alerted me to Watson's liberal background. From his bio on CNN.com: "Watson's career spans law, journalism, politics and business. While at Harvard University, Watson wrote for the Miami Herald and the Detroit Free Press, where his articles included several high profile, front-page stories. During this time, Watson also worked for Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, Sen. Bob Graham and Democratic National Committee Chair Ron Brown. After graduating from Harvard with honors, he served as chief of staff and campaign manager for Florida Rep. Daryl Jones." See: cnnstudentnews.cnn.com )
# Chris Matthews: "Well they're saying goodnight to each other. But that was a pretty good debate tonight. I thought it was a great night for America. I think a lot of people have a lot of answers to their questions."
# Andrea Mitchell: "I thought a very strong debate for both. I think that John Kerry was strong on minimum wage, George Bush on taxes. Kerry made his points about abortion which is directed to primarily a female audience. By invoking John Kennedy I think he cleared up any confusion that might have existed about how he as a Catholic is dealing with this very complex issue...."
# Newsweek's Jon Meacham: "I thought it was a remarkably civil, substantive debate. And to, since we talked about Catholicism tonight, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, 'We're back to where we began.' A very closely divided race. It's gonna be, completely, I think at this point, about turning out the bases on November 2nd..."
# Tom Brokaw, just past 11pm EDT: "Well I remember listening to Pat Buchanan last week talk about they must have done some polling in the Bush campaign and they rolled out the 'liberal' word and they couldn't roll it out enough tonight. And I think that what we have seen Chris are the terms for the final three weeks, minus one day, of this campaign. And which the President is gonna continue to describe John Kerry at every opportunity as, 'a tax-and-spend liberal who has done nothing in his 20 years in the United States Senate. He's to the left even of Ted Kennedy. His programs are unrealistic. I believe in an ownership society. It's your money not the government's money.'
# Fred Barnes: "Well, it was clearly President Bush's best debate. He seemed to marshal all of the arguments that he wanted on many of these domestic issues, many of which are traditional Democratic issues, including health care. On that one in particular, John Kerry was on defensive. He kept having to say, 'I'm not proposing a government-run health care plan,' and so on. And Bush was extremely good on that. As several of us noted in the beginning, this was the first debate where the President actually seemed animated and strong on the first question. In the others, it's taken him sort a half an hour or so to get rolling. He seemed happy to be there, which certainly wasn't true in the first debate....If he had done as well in the first debate as he did tonight, he'd have a much bigger lead in this race."
# Bill Kristol: "The President started saying recently that Kerry can run but he can't hide, which I believe is what Joe Lewis said in, what, 1946, was it, before his fight with Billy Conn? Lewis knocked Conn out in the eighth round. I think Bush knocked Kerry out tonight. I think it was just, he just slaughtered him. I was keeping track of the 20 questions. I don't have Kerry winning any question outright. I think maybe six or seven were sort of tied. And I have Bush winning outright a majority of the questions."
# Morton Kondracke: "This makes Bush the 'Comeback Kid' of these debates....I think it's better to score well on the first debate and not to raise the, with the biggest audience and not raise questions about your capability because I think the President definitely lost ground in the first two debates. The question is whether it, you know, he made it up tonight, depends on the audience, I think, and the feedback."
Liberal label outmoded? Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham contended on MSNBC before the debate that the liberal tag "seems a little tinny these days. I think it's a more serious time." He argued that if Bush "simply throws red meat out that's trouble." After the debate, Boston Globe reporter Nina Easton complained on CNN that Republican have "ridden that tired horse of calling Kerry a liberal from Massachusetts and out of the mainstream, which doesn't, I don't think, play that well to swing voters."
Early in MSNBC's 8pm EDT hour, the MRC's Geoff Dickens caught these comments from Meacham in reaction to Pat Buchanan's correct prediction that Bush would label Kerry a liberal:
Following the debate, during the "Brown Table" segment on CNN's midnight EDT NewsNight, Nina Easton of the Boston Globe picked Bush as the winner, but chided him for applying the liberal label:
NBC's Tim Russert offered a non-judgmental assessment that John Kerry invoking the lesbianism of "President Cheney's daughter was a very interesting maneuver" and MSNBC's Chris Matthews, in reaction to President Bush's comment that he doesn't know if homosexuality is genetic, stated, to Ron Reagan's affirmation that Matthews was "right on the money," that he "was waiting for John Kerry to come back to the President and say, 'When did you choose?' He didn't do that obviously. He didn't have a sense of humor but I think that would've a great response." But other analysts on MSNBC, as well as FNC, condemned the Kerry remark. Newsweek's Jon Meacham asserted: "I found it jolting. I wouldn't have done it. I think it was out-of-bounds." Pat Buchanan proposed it was "as bad as if the President brought up...the fact that John Kerry was divorced." On FNC, Morton Kondracke declared: "I think it's low dirty politics."
FNC's Jim Angle reported that Kerry's reference to Cheney's daughter being a lesbian elicited "a low groan" from journalists in "the press room," though he may have meant those in the room with the Bush spinners.
(On CBS, John Roberts relayed: "John Kerry pulled a strategy from John Edwards at the vice presidential debate when asked about homosexuality, he brought up Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian. That was something that a very senior Bush campaign official, when Edwards did it, said was 'smart but cheesy.'")
-- MSNBC, as tracked by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens. In the 11pm EDT half hour, Tim Russert opined from inside the venue: "John Kerry I thought came down very firmly and said, 'It is a matter of biology and, and I think it's, it's something that every American family is affected with, if not directly certainly friends or relatives.' And I thought John Kerry invoking President Cheney's daughter was a very interesting maneuver at that particular stage of the debate. It certainly caught the President's attention."
A bit later, Matthews repeated his point to his panel sitting at an outside locale in Tempe: "Let's get back to the panel right now. A little hilarity there. But, you know, I've heard that question put by people who are gay rights activists. They've said it right to people like Trent Lott, 'When did you choose?'"
Others on the panel weren't so approving of Kerry raising the sexuality of a candidate's daughter.
Andrea Mitchell suggested that "you can speak generically about the issue without making it personal and bringing up someone else's family if it has not been raised by the person themself in that context."
Jon Meacham, Managing Editor of Newsweek, soon chimed in: "But the implication, the reason both Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry have raised it is to implicitly accuse Bush and Cheney of hypocrisy, full-stop. That's all this is. There's nothing more about it. And, and I think it's wrong. I found it jolting. I wouldn't have done it. I think it was out-of-bounds. I think that was a good way to put it. But there's no question that, that's what the hardball goal here is."
Ten minutes later, referring to a GOP focus group, Jim Angle checked in from the spin room: "There was one moment that got a very negative reaction from the crowd, and that was when Senator Kerry mentioned the Vice President's daughter, Mary Cheney, talked about how she is gay and used her as an example. That got a very negative reaction in the focus group. And, I must say, here in the press room, there was a low groan when Senator Kerry mentioned that. So, all in all, the Bush people are quite happy. The President has sort of come back from a couple of questionable performances, certainly the first debate, and they now believe they've got the upper hand in the sprint to Election Day."
After Mary Beth Cahill of the Kerry campaign told Chris Wallace that she considered Mary Cheney's sexuality to be "fair game," Bill Kristol asked: "What has Mary Cheney done to make herself, quote, 'fair game,' for John Kerry to gratuitously introduce this in the debate? I wonder if Kerry is not going to have to apologize tomorrow."
Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News skewed the debate topics with a slate of questions tilted ideologically to the left. Of Schieffer's 20 questions, six came explicitly from the left, and that's not even counting three queries to Bush clearly intended to force him into expressing what the media define as unpopular views on divisive social policies: Whether he believes "homosexuality is a choice," whether he'd like to overturn Roe v Wade and what role "faith" plays in his "policy decisions?" While Schieffer hit Kerry from the left in three questions, he never once pressed Bush from the right though many conservatives are upset with Bush's massive education spending and creation of a new entitlement program. Compared to the six to nine questions from the left, Schieffer posed only three from the right, barely -- all to Kerry.
Schieffer challenged Kerry from the left on how he can keep his pledge, made at the last debate, to not raise taxes on those earning less than $200,000 "without running this country deeper into debt?" and he tossed up to Kerry this liberal talking points softball: "The gap between rich and poor is growing wider. More people are dropping into poverty. Yet the minimum wage has been stuck at, what, $5.15 an hour now for about seven years. Is it time to raise it?"
He scolded Bush for not doing more to enact a liberal policy: "You said that if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you'd sign the legislation. But you did nothing to encourage the Congress to extend it. Why not?"
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth tracked down Schieffer's questions and I've divided them up into categories, with each numbered in the overall sequence they were posed.
# 3rd: "Let's talk about economic security. You pledged during the last debate that you would not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 a year. But the price of everything is going up, and we all know it. Health care costs, as you all have talking about, is skyrocketing, the cost of the war. My question is: How can you or any President, whoever is elected next time, keep that pledge without running this country deeper into debt and passing on more of the bills that we're running up to our children?"
# 13th: "The gap between rich and poor is growing wider. More people are dropping into poverty. Yet the minimum wage has been stuck at, what, $5.15 an hour now for about seven years. Is it time to raise it?"
# 15th, regurgitating a Kerry campaign talking point back to him: "Senator, the last debate, President Bush said he did not favor a draft. You agreed with him. But our National Guard and Reserve forces are being severely strained because many of them are being held beyond their enlistments. Some of them say that it's a backdoor draft. Is there any relief that could be offered to these brave Americans and their families? If you became President, Senator Kerry, what would you do about this situation of holding National Guard and Reservists for these extended periods of time and these repeated call-ups that they're now facing?"
# 4th: "Mr. President, two minutes, and let's continue on jobs. You know there are all kind of statistics out there, but I want to bring it down to an individual. Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?"
# 10th: "We all know that Social Security is running out of money, and it has to be fixed. You have proposed to fix it by letting people put some of the money collected to pay benefits into private saving accounts, but the critics are saying that's going to mean finding a trillion dollars over the next ten years to continue paying benefits as those accounts are being set up. So where do you get the money? Are you going to have to increase the deficit by that much over ten years?"
# 16th: "Mr. President, new question, two minutes. You said that if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you'd sign the legislation. But you did nothing to encourage the Congress to extend it. Why not?"
# 6th: "Both of you are opposed to gay marriage, but to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question: Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?"
# 14th, demanding Bush respond to a Kerry point: "Mr. President, I want to go back to something Senator Kerry said earlier tonight and ask a followup of my own. He said, and this will be a new question to you, he said that you had never said whether you would like to overturn Roe v. Wade, so I'd ask you directly: Would you like to?"
# 18th: "You were asked before the invasion or after the invasion of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad, and I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you: What part does your faith play on your policy decisions?"
# 5th: "You know, many experts say that a President really doesn't have much control over jobs. For example, if someone invents a machine that does the work of five people, that's progress. That's not the President's fault. So I ask you: Is it fair to blame the administration entirely for this loss of jobs?"
# 7th, a question which barely fits this category since Schieffer used liberal "right to choose" terminology and left it open-ended: "Senator Kerry, a new question for you. The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are telling their church members that it would be a sin to vote for a candidate like you because you support a woman's right to choose an abortion and unlimited stem cell research. What is your reaction to that?"
# 9th: "You have, as you have proposed and as the President has commented on tonight, proposed a massive plan to extend health care coverage to children. You're also talking about the government picking up a big part of the catastrophic bills that people get at the hospital. And you have said that you can pay for this by rolling back the President's tax cut on the upper two percent. You heard the President say earlier tonight that it's going to cost a whole lot more money than that. I'll just ask you where are you going to get the money?"
# 1st, to Kerry: "Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion by asking the question that I think hangs over all of our politics today and is probably on the minds of many people watching this debate tonight, and that is: Will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?"
# 2nd, to Bush:: "We're talking about protecting ourselves from the unexpected, but the flu season is suddenly upon us. Flu kills thousands of people every year. Suddenly, we find ourselves with a severe shortage of flu vaccine. How did that happen?"
# 8th, to Bush: "Let's get back to economic issues. Health insurance costs have risen over 36 percent over the last four years, according to the Washington Post. We're paying more. We're getting less. I would like to ask you: Who bears responsibility for this? Is it the government? Is it the insurance companies? Is it the lawyers? Is it the doctors? Is it the administration?"
# 11th, to Kerry: "Let me just stay on Social Security with a new question for Senator Kerry because, Senator Kerry, you have just said you will not cut benefits. Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, says there's no way that Social Security can pay retirees what we have promised them unless we recalibrate. What he's suggesting, we're going to have to cut benefits or we're going to have to raise retirement age, we may have to take some other reform. But if you've just said you've promised no changes, does that mean you're just going to leave this as a problem, another problem for our children to solve?"
# 12th, to Bush: "I got more e-mail this week on this question than any other question, and it is about immigration. I'm told that at least 8,000 people cross our borders illegally every day. Some people believe this is a security issue, as you know. Some believe it's an economic issue. Some see it as a human rights issue. How do you see it? And what do we need to do about it?"
# 17th, to Kerry: "Affirmative action: Do you see a need for affirmative action programs, or have we moved far enough along that we no longer need to use race and gender as a factor in school admissions, in federal and state contracts and so on?"
# 19th, to Kerry: "After 9/11, and this is a new question for you, it seemed to me that the country came together as I've never seen it come together since World War II, but some of that seems to have melted away. I think it's fair to say we've become pretty polarized, perhaps because of the political season. But if you were elected President or whoever is elected President, will you set a priority on trying to bring the nation back together? Or what would be your attitude on that?"
# 20th, to both: "We come, gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me, as I came to this debate tonight, that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We are all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. I'd like to ask each of you: What is the most important thing you've learned from these strong women?"
From the October 13 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten President Bush Explanations for the Bulge in His Jacket." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "It's connected to an earpiece so Cheney can feed me answers -- crap, I wasn't supposed to say that."
9. "It's a device that shocks me every time I mispronounce a word."
8. "Just a bunch of intelligence memos I haven't gotten around to reading yet."
7. "Mmm, delicious Muenster cheese."
6. "John Kerry initially voted for the bulge in my jacket, then voted against it."
5. "I'll tell you exactly what it is -- it's a clear sign this economy is moving again."
4. "Halliburton is drilling my back for oil."
3. "Oh like you've never cheated in a presidential debate."
2. "Accidentally took some of Governor Schwarzenegger's 'roids."
1. "If Kerry's gonna look like a horse, then I'm gonna look like a camel."
-- Brent Baker, with the overnight team of Geoff Dickens, Jessica Anderson and Brad Wilmouth