Cheney came off as a serious, articulate and thoughtful man, not the neocon Rasputin he's made out to be. Edwards was in over his head. He didn't do badly but he seemed a bit shallow, more like someone acting like a candidate than an actual candidate. ("I'm not a Vice Presidential candidate but I play one on TV.")
They are both highly accomplished, smart and organized men. Both had a wide range of facts at their command. But Cheney displayed a broader vision than Edwards. At times it felt like Edwards was an eager debating student who was debating the teacher.
To continue the cliched boxing metaphor, Cheney closed off the ring, cornered Edwards and then dealt him a series of bodyblows. Edwards flailed around but just couldn't connect. His Haliburton lines never scored. Whereas Cheney had several fine shots: Edwards was for the Iraq war when it was going well and he's against it as soon as there was bad news; Edwards said two years ago that Afghanistan was going poorly (I liked that one); Desert Storm had 34 allies, the war in Iraq has 30; don't discount the contributions of the brave Iraqis who are fighting and dying for their freedom. (Edwards, "Oww, my ribs!)
Some of the pundits are harping on Cheney's statement that he never drew a connection between Hussein and 9/11. He said on several occasions that there were connections between Hussein and al Qaeda (which is not the same thing). MSNBC is bugged-eyed over an old Cheney quote about Iraq being the geographical center of "terrorist enemies who've attacked us for years and on 9/11." This is one of the key differences between Buch-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards. BC04 believes in a broad war on Arab-Islamo-fascism. KE04 believes in a narrow focus on al-Qaeda (see here). I'm with Cheney. We are not fighting against the 1000 or 5000 individual people in al-Qaeda. We are at war with a broad ideology centered in the Arab world. Hey, Edwards, guess where Iraq is?
Again, no knockout. They both did well. Cheney did as well as he can. So did Edwards. Cheney is just better.
UPDATE: The day, hearing some of the clips on the radio and reading some of the quotes, I am of the same opinion only more so. Part of Cheney's advantage is his voice. Nearly everything he said sounded serious and well-reasoned. He has a calm paternal tone monotone that is understated and weighty. At his best Edwards sounded quick and well-worded. Other times he sounded small, his voice too high pitched beside Cheney's. Edwards occasionally o-ver-ar-tic-u-lates his phrases, like he was reciting lines. And the smile, the Edwards smile. Please. It might work with juries, emotionally exhausted after weeks of intimate medical trial testimony, but on TV next to Cheney, addressing terror and foreign policy, the smile risks appearing vapid, or a nervous defense mechanism.
Democratic partisans can comfort themselves that Edwards survived. And thank their lucky stars there won't be a second debate.