DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING ROUND 1….Here it is: realtime thoughts on the first Bush-Kerry debate of 2004. Feel free to add your own fact checking in comments. I’ll try to add them to the main commentary stream as I go.

Wrapup: I don’t really have anything very creative to say. Neither candidate made any huge mistakes.

Bush’s performance was mediocre, I thought. He was smirking too much during the cutaways, he alternated between defensiveness and an unattractive belligerence, and he repeated the same phrases a little too much. Staying on message is fine, but sounding like you’ve been hypnotized isn’t.

Kerry did pretty well. He explained himself lucidly, he stayed on message, and he was clear and firm. He didn’t have any killer lines, but he did have a few good ones. Overall, it seems to me that for an undecided voter who’s just now starting to pay attention, Kerry won on points.

Liveblogging, on the other hand, didn’t work out so great. The combination of frequent posting, high traffic, and lots of comments pretty much brought our server to its knees. The commentary below isn’t sparse because I wasn’t paying attention, it’s sparse because that was about all I was able to get in while waiting for Movable Type to come back to life in between posts…..

A complete transcript of the debate is here.

10:16 ? Kerry: “You can be certain and be wrong.” Yep.

10:14 ? Bush’s stock phrases so far:

Saddam was a threat.
We must spread liberty.
My opponent keeps changing his position
You can’t say “wrong war at the wrong time.”
Central part of the war on terror.
Solemn duty to protect the American people.
You can’t send mixed messages.

I’ve heard each of these at least half a dozen times so far. It’s like a robot talking.

10:06 ? Moo-laws?

10:02 ? Bush just tried to make some hay out of Kerry’s phrase about pre-emptive action having to “pass a global test.” That was poor wording from Kerry, but Bush couldn’t manage to do much with it. I’m surprised. That was sort of a softball.

9:55 ? Bush: “I never wanted to commit troops.” Give me a break.

9:49 ? Kerry: “The president’s plan is four words: ‘More of the same.’” That’s a good line.

9:44 ? Bush is just relentlessly on message. The same phrases over and over and over….

9:37 ? Bush: “You forgot Poland.” That line could end up as fodder for Leno and Letterman.

9:35 ? Overall, Bush seems more defensive than usual tonight….

9:34 ? Bush: “Of course the UN was invited in.” Please. Tell that to Hans Blix.

9:26 ? Bush seemed a little unnerved by Kerry’s accusation that he wasn’t doing everything he could to protect America.

9:24 ? Bush actually has the nerve to complain about a “tax gap”? Yes he does.

9:20 ? Kerry really needs to stop nodding when Bush is saying stuff he disagrees with.

9:06 ? I dunno, Kerry’s face doesn’t look orange to me. Bush looks a little bronzed, though….

9:03 ? There will be green, yellow, and red lights, plus flashing red lights and a backup buzzer! Sheesh.

9:00 ? Jeff Greenfield on CNN: what’s important is “who controls the room.” Um, OK.