Tonight, Bush showed that he can learn - over the course of a week - to stifle most of his annoyed or dismayed faces, to not stammer too much, to not lose his place in his pre-digested bits of rhetoric. His speech was smoother, less halting.
Yet there was no content to his answers. He repeated many of his signature lines, well practiced over the past week. And he was - let's say - loose with the facts. Most especially with the conclusions of the Duelfer Report.
Kerry was as good or as better than last week. He had some great answers, but again, no real "home runs." He was solid, likeable and did not let himself get too carried away with detail.
The question of how this debate will play out on the electorate, on the polls, will be how people see Bush's performance. Yes, he stammered less; it's true there weren't too many lapses in his speech. But those are pretty low standards for a man who would be - again - the most powerful man in the world. Will they see through his folksy attempts at humor to the dissembling and distortions in his answers?
I'm not at all confident, given what the polls have continued to show that the answer to that question is yes. But I'm hopeful.