Kerry leading amonst those identifying as "armed forces" by 47.4 to 44.7. The idea that the military is Bush country is bullshit. (Usually this demographic includes armed forces and immediate family, and in the recent past has included tremendous speculation without hard numbers).
Chris Bowers at mydd.com says Sen. Kerry did well, "but did not completely blow Bush out of the water." In his blog assessment, "Bush looked cranky while Kerry looked stoic and engaged. If there really were worries out there about him being commander-in-chief, he did a lot to dispel them tonight. He also had at least two excellent, succinct, clear quotes about his position on Iraq that I hope are repeated endlessly for the next two days."
Mr. Bowers says he didn't think this debate "was anymore 'substantive' than debates in other cycles. However, I was surprised by how heated it was. Bush actually was annoyed enough to frequently step away from his talking points. This was usually to his detriment, as he looked angrier and less focused than usual. That could really hurt him." (end of quote)
I think Kerry did substantively better than that. He needed to look Presidential... and he was. It puts the lie to Bush's 'weak flip-flopper' theme, and thereby brings everything Bush ever said into question, especially Iraq (where the doubts arer already there). This is subtle stuff, but with so many people watching, a few points here or there are huge.
It has been very frustrating trying to get historical data to compare to... as yet, for example, I find nothing reliable on how Bush v Gore did in 2000. Without that comparison, how can one evaluate today's numbers?