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Several of the experts were particularly disappointed with Carter. Said Sovietologist Paul Zinner of the University of California at Davis: "He was terribly evasive, terribly moralistic in vague, evangelical terms. His strategy was to go on the offensive against the President, rather than to discuss his own program or to show the real flaws in Ford's approach." Added Berkeley Political Scientist Nelson Polsby of Carter: "When faced with a problem, he offers you a nostrum, waves it over the diseased limb and then goes away." But Carter had his defenders among the professionals. Said Harvard Government Professor Samuel Huntington: "Carter did show spark and spontaneity, and he did a good job stating the general themes [of his approach to foreign policy], which is about all you can do given the debate format."


CBS-TV estimated that 83 million people saw at least part of the debate, v. 85 million for the first encounter. Because of Carter's style—an obviously nimble mind and a more relaxed, spontaneous delivery than Ford's—he was generally judged, even by some Administration insiders, to be a narrow winner over Ford, who usually appeared self-confident but occasionally sounded tense and irritable. At times Ford looked like an angry lineman glaring at a linebacker whom he was about to obliterate, though he never quite succeeded.

An Associated Press poll of 1,071 voters awarded the debate to Carter by 38.2% to 34.6%. A Burns Roper spot check of 300 people put Carter ahead by 40% to 30%—almost the exact reverse of a Roper poll after the first debate. Interviews by TIME correspondents indicated that the second debate, like the first, switched few votes—at least for now—though it did help to firm up some support for each candidate.

James Eggleston, 25, a Saint Louis

University law student, thought that Carter benefited mostly "because of the improvement factor—he was so much better than in the first debate." Marie Doyle, 54, associate superintendent of public schools in Jefferson County, Ky., said: "I feel more positive about Carter now. He seemed more relaxed, more responsive. There was a sparkle in his eyes that wasn't there before." Lawyer Steve Meyers, 33, of Santa Monica, Calif, thought Carter "sounded like a leader; Ford sounded whiny and picky." Steven Carpenter, 27, a supervisor at an Indianapolis medical laboratory, complained, "Ford just rested on his laurels."

On the other side, many voters preferred Ford's more stolid style to Carter's sometimes almost smart-alecky behavior. Said David Porter, 31, an unemployed Pittsburgh schoolteacher: "Foreign policy is not a smiling issue." Said Chicago Management Consultant Randy Adams, 32: "I think Ford answered more directly. I don't agree with everything he said, but he answered the questions."

In the aftermath of the debate, Ford's aides were subdued as they came to realize he had not done well enough in the contest that he was supposed to have won because of his two years' experience as President.

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