My guy (Kerry) was quite good. He spoke directly, without his usual superstructure of prevarication. He was self-assured without ever being smug. He thought on his feet, and to my mind I don't think the President threw anything at him that he couldn't answer credibly. If a good performance is, as has been said, essential to his standings in the election, he had a good performance.
I wasn't as impressed by Bush - no surprise there. He seemed tongue tied at times, as if he was flipping thru his stack of cards for the right talking point. His primary means of rebuttal to Kerry was to repeat something he'd already said. On the other hand, nothing he did would change the opinion of anyone who already supported him -- I'm sure it will be spun as being a good debate for him. Unfortunately I doubt anyone during this campaign will hold his feet to the fire about a lot of the other crap he's been pulling the last four years -- the jerrymandering of congressional districts the Republicans have pushed through, putting industry lobbyists in charge of regulating the industries for which they've lobbied, the backwards progress on environmental issues, the pandering to the far right and christian fundamentalists.
So really I'd call it a draw, but that Kerry held his own and came off at his best. If nothing else, anyone who watched got to see what he's been saying all along since the convention as succinctly as he could say it. I feel like the media has given way too much attention to the Bush campaign's attacks on him without ever bothering to fact check them, and they've not been willing to give Kerry the same airtime to state his case as they have Bush.
And is it so much to ask that all the network and cable outlets stop chewing over the horse race aspects of the election, and pay more attention to what the candidates are actually saying?