More news from the Future: AP reports from the debate, 3 hours before it happens!
Who do they think they are fooling?
The 90-minute encounter was particularly crucial for Kerry, trailing slightly in the polls and struggling for momentum less than five weeks before the election. The Democratic candidate faced the challenge of presenting himself as a credible commander in chief after a torrent of Republican criticism that he was prone to changing his positions.
Bush was expected to confront questions about leading the nation into war on the still-unproven premise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He also has faced accusations that he lacked a strategy to deal with the violence and chaos that have left more than 1,000 Americans dead and that the Iraq war has diverted U.S. attention from al-Qaida and other terrorists.
With a record of four years in office to defend, Bush had a debate strategy of being optimistic about Iraq but acknowledging that times were tough. His stance is that Americans know he is a decisive leader even if they don't always agree with his decisions and that Kerry has taken conflicting positions on Iraq and can't be trusted to lead the nation.
Although Kerry voted to give Bush authority to invade Iraq, he says he would not have followed Bush's path to war a path that alienated allies and, the Democrat says, left Americans less secure. Kerry argues Bush is out of touch with reality, paints too rosy a picture about Iraq and lacks a strategy to end the crisis.
Kerry also says Bush has neglected other major problems like North Korea and Iran, two nations suspected of pursing nuclear weapons