The article that Kevin Drum points out from the Atlantic Monthly is a really good read, he discusses the evolution of George W., the articulate orator to the W., the bumbling idiot... Josh Marshall talks about that here
What I also find interesting is this segment on his debate with Garry Mauro when he was already governor in regards to the cutaway rule (which holds for today's debate as well):
According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking—that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed.
Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt. "It was incredible," Mauro told me recently. "I almost can't believe it in retelling it. Because the press was upstairs, they didn't realize how aggressive he was on the stage—pulling the sleeve of the moderator, staring or winking at Laura in the crowd." The moderator of the debate, Bob Moore, of the El Paso Times, told me that Bush actually grabbed him just before the debate: "In the hallway, Bush did grab me by the lapels, pull me close to his face, and say, 'Bobby, you clean up real good.' Typical Bush." When Bush was on stage but off camera, Moore said, "there was that Bush smirk, rolling his eyes, all of which Bush is very good at."
Not that I expect Bush to do this, but I thought it was pretty telling. This next bit is pretty exciting, right now I'm planning on playing this in order to not drive myself nuts, but if this is true, it'll be a good ole time!
Sitting through the videos of Kerry's old debates and interviews produced an effect I hadn't remotely anticipated: I was sorry when they were finished, because it was a treat to see this man perform. With Bush, I developed new respect for the power of his determination to stick to his main point. But this is not something you want to watch. Kerry under pressure was engrossing in a way that reminded me of a climactic courtroom scene in a Scott Turow novel, in which a skillful prosecutor eventually traps an evasive witness. You could see him maneuvering, thinking, adjusting, attacking, applying both knowledge and logic, and generally coming out ahead. John Kerry's formal speeches often seem to illustrate the main complaints about his style: that he is pompous-sounding and stiff. But these debates mainly make you think, This man knows a lot, he is fast, and he has an interesting mind. Kerry was usually effective without being ugly or unfair. Kerry's lightness of touch, compared with Bush's relentless plodding, is a surprise considering what we all know about their backgrounds: Bush never thought of becoming President until a few years before he did; Kerry thought of it in prep school...
I was surprised to find that the more I saw of Kerry in action, the better I thought of him on both counts. He has pushed his Vietnam record so hard for so long that many people are tired of hearing about his courage and readiness for conflict. But the warrior persona that comes through in his debates is appealing. He is not a happy warrior in the political sense, like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or John Edwards. Instead, as the vanquished William Weld put it, he is "good tough." In his words and arguments Kerry is always attacking and moving forward, but in demeanor he is unruffled—like a confident detective or prosecutor relentlessly building his case.
I know people will ask, what does it matter anway? The debate format and how they will be presented and covered by the media is so flawed that it won't make a difference. Could be true. I'd like to hope that between Trading Spouses and He's a Lady the American public will situp and pay attention and recognize they're being lied to.