Stalemate in TV debate between Mr Grumpy and Mr Vigorous

The battle between Republicans and Democrats will be cranked up with a showdown between George Bush and John Kerry tomorrow night after both sides claimed victory in the often personal and scathing vice-presidential debate on Tuesday night.

Mr Kerry and President Bush are set to meet in St Louis, Missouri, for the second of three televised debates with polls showing the two virtually tied - not only in the crucial battleground state of Missouri but across the nation as well.

After Mr Bush's poor performance in the first presidential debate last week in Miami, Republicans received some heart from Tuesday night's rough and tumble encounter between the President's deputy, Dick Cheney, and Mr Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The vastly experienced and often grumpy Mr Cheney was matched by the more vigorous and charismatic, yet less experienced, Mr Edwards. Instant polls conducted by US news organisations indicated that the very different pair were fairly evenly matched. Certainly, neither delivered any sort of knock-out blow. Much of the debate focused on national security and the war on Iraq with Mr Edwards, 51, accusing Mr Cheney, 63, of misleading the country over the alleged involvement of Saddam Hussein in the attacks of 11 September 2001.

"You are still not being straight with the American people," declared Mr Edwards, sounding forceful, as Mr Cheney sat just a few feet away. "Mr Vice-President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11th and Saddam Hussein. The 9-11 Commission has said it. Your own Secretary of State has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There is not."

Mr Cheney, probably the most powerful vice president in history, started the debate looking nervous and unsettled, but he gradually settled - even if he made a number of statements that were quickly shown afterwards to be false. [At one point he claimed he had never before met Mr Edwards - an attack on the North Carolina's Senator allegedly poor attendance record in Washington - though aides quickly found a photograph of the pair dating from 2001.] Conservatives said that, at the very least, Mr Cheney had applied the brakes to the momentum the Democrats had gathered after Mr Bush's agitated and shallow performance last week.

Vice-presidential debates are usually flat - Lloyd Bentsen's memorable "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" putdown of Dan Quayle in the 1988 campaign is among the exceptions - and rarely play an important role in deciding a campaign's outcome.

This time was no different and both debators avoided the potential pitfalls that could have provided the opposition with a clear victory. Mr Edwards sounded firm and knowledgeable on foreign affairs - an area in which his lack of experience has been attacked by Republicans - and Mr Cheney, while retaining something of the manner of an old and rather mangy dog being nipped at by a puppy, avoided appearing too grumpy and bad-tempered.

Mr Cheney made sure to point out Mr Kerry's perceived confused and shifting position on Iraq - a point Mr Bush failed to make effectively last week. "You're not credible on Iraq because of the enormous inconsistencies that John Kerry and you have cited time after time after time," Mr Cheney said to Mr Edwards.

In turn, Mr Edwards continued to shore up Mr Kerry's claim to be able to protect the American people against the threat of terrorism. He also argued that the war in Iraq, which has cost the lives of more than 1,000 US troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians, was unnecessary, based on false intelligence and diverted resources from the hunt for al-Qa'ida.

"We were attacked by al-Qa'ida and Osama bin Laden. We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration ... began to plan for the invasion of Iraq. Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th - period."

In Cleveland yesterday, the morning after the debate, one undecided voter, a very rare species in this election, Robert Simon, 51, a college professor at Levin College of Urban Affairs, claimed the debate had not shifted the dynamic of the contest. "They were both good," he said. "They were both solid. I think it was a draw. Last night did not change a thing."

* Staff of billionaire George Soros were quick to seize on a slip made by Mr Cheney during the debate when he directed viewers to factcheck.com, a website he said would disprove allegations made about Halliburton, his former company. ButMr Soros' staff quickly bought the domain name and posted a message entitled "Why We Must Not Re-Elect George Bush", urging the public to vote for Mr Kerry. The Vice President had, in fact, meant to say factcheck.org.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us