With the last debate over, Kerry and Edwards did exactly what they needed to do. Even without Bush's Debate 1 Meltdown (Blinky McWired); Cheney's tired growling (Grumpy McScary); Bush's Debate 2 aggression (Shrieky McFury); and Bush's Debate 3 Frat Boy Jokiness (Giggly McCreepy), Kerry Edwards still scored points with specific rhetoric, mature demeanor, and respect for the process and for their opponent. Kerry did not get rattled; he may not have always given the best answers, or responded with the greatest force, but he did enough to show himself as a strong candidate to those voters only exposed to Bush's lies.
Bush will not recover from the impression formed in the first debate; of course his supporters will continue to support him, but he has reached his ceiling.
As for the "debate" format, I say let them all be town halls. The moderators were awful; the town-hall folks were awesome (I guess Gibson gets some credit for choosing the questions. But still).
Lehrer: The questions weren't that bad, but he allowed Bush to jump all over him, taking extra time. Is everyone in the press afraid to challenge Bush?
Ifill played weird word games: Talk about what your ticket would do, but DON'T USE HIS NAME. Easy for Cheney, since he never mentions Bush anway.
Schieffer lobbed multiple softballs to Bush: Do you believe homosexuality is a choice? What kind of issue is immigration? Talk about your personal faith. Your strong woman. BLECH. (Edited to add this link to Somerby's Daily Howler column from Thursday, Oct. 14. Scroll about halfway down to see his criticism of Shieffer's lame-ass questions. He also notes the inherent bias in the questions directed at Kerry.)
Give me the intelligent, engaged voters of St. Louis. They brought specific, direct and tough questions to both candidates. Unliked the overpaid self-important blowhards of Da Media, they were not afraid to confront Bush (or Kerry).