Did John Kerry get the job done, hit it out of the park, close the deal, clear the bar, reach the threshold, pass the test?

That, of course, is up to the voters. But they are certain to be influenced by the journalistic hosannas that are following Kerry's speech.

First off, I wonder why the Kerry campaign put out excerpts in advance. That enables commentators like Bill O'Reilly to say, two hours before the candidate speaks, "it's mostly stuff you've heard before."

I'm not huge on speeches by family members, but Vanessa and Alexandra did more in a few minutes to humanize their dad than anything in the rest of this campaign, and certainly more than Teresa's more high-falutin' speech.

I was also surprised that the cable networks carried the Spielberg-influenced biopic, since they don't like to run infomercials. But it gave you a sense of what was going on in the hall.

Listening to Kerry's Navy crewmate and to Max Cleland in his wheelchair, watching Kerry "reporting for duty" with a salute, you couldn't help but be struck by how central Vietnam is to Kerry's core, and how that long-ago war still hangs in the air of every presidential election.

Fascinating that he chose to enter the hall down the aisle, shaking hands, surrounded by cheering fans, rather than enter imperiously from behind the stage.

It was a speech of Clintonian length, with Kerry far more animated than usual (not as emotional as I saw him in a New Hampshire gym with Cleland and his band of brothers, but the audience was a wee bit larger). His decision to lead with the war on terror, before getting to the usual Democratic raw meat on domestic issues, clearly defined the major question of this election. Equally striking was his appropriation of Bush's 2000 promise to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House (after Clinton's moral failings) by vowing to store "trust and credibility" to the White House (after Bush's war in Iraq).

The television talkers loved it.

"A strong speech," said Tom Brokaw. "Working himself literally into a sweat," said Dan Rather. "A good speech . . . a tough speech," said Peter Jennings.

"An extremely tough, hawkish speech," said Jeff Greenfield.

"The best speech I've ever seen John Kerry deliver by a mile," said ABC political director Mark Halperin.

"I've never seen the man speak so well," said Joe Klein, who covered Kerry's first congressional campaign in 1972.

The Fox pundits offered qualified praise, although Fred Barnes said Kerry came up with no read-my-lips type slogan or something that would generate lots of post-speech buzz. Mara Liasson said she thought the salute would qualify.

Print journalists by and large loved both the substance and the delivery. Just pay attention to the adjectives.

The Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-na-assess30jul30,1,6477841.story?coll=la-home-headlines. sees a strong Kerry:

"Sen. John F. Kerry capped a Democratic convention centered on his Vietnam experiences with an acceptance speech that seemed the political equivalent of a surprise attack on an enemy's strongest point. In a confident and combative address, Kerry signaled his determination to fight the fall campaign on terrain that the White House has long assumed would belong to President Bush: strength, integrity, values and the prosecution of the war on terror..

"The speech capped a four-day gathering that emphasized national security -- and deployed martial imagery -- more aggressively than any Democratic convention in decades: It may have been the party's first gathering in modern times to feature more generals on stage than teachers. Above all, the convention, and Kerry's speech itself, seemed designed to reassure Americans that it was safe to take the unsettling step of replacing the commander in chief during a time of war."

The New York Times | http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/30/politics/campaign/30asses.final.html?hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1091186019-WKP4f7tchekPucc9Mb77pw also seizes on the S-word:

"For months, John Kerry and his supporters have told voters that he is strong enough to keep the nation safe and caring enough to make it comfortable with him as president. On Thursday night his goal was to show the biggest audience of his life that both claims were true, and he gave it his best shot.

"In an emphatic speech that used some variation of the word 'strength' 17 times, Mr. Kerry portrayed himself not only as a plausible, but also as a vastly preferable commander in chief to President Bush, one whose own combat service left him with a special understanding of the twin American traditions of force and restraint. . . .

"After a year in which he has been borne along more by the Democrats' lust to defeat Mr. Bush than by any special passion to elect him, Mr. Kerry may well have turned a corner on the path toward inspiring his party, and inviting swing voters to put him in the White House. He perspired visibly in the overcrowded hall, but his delivery was fluid, relaxed and assured, and he smiled often."

The Boston Globe | http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2004/07/30/running_on_values_biography/ takes the personal approach:

"A convention dominated by speakers telling their personal stories served as a prelude to the ultimate autobiographical political moment: a presidential candidate who promoted himself more forcefully than any policy or platform.

"Kerry did not offer a plan for Iraq or the war on terrorism -- he offered a set of principles based on his life experiences, particularly his time as a swift boat commander in the Vietnam War."

For USA Today, | http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-07-29-dems-analysis_x.htm it's a series of stirring images:

"The Democrats have gone to a war footing.

"John Kerry accepted the nomination of his party Thursday night with a speech more muscular than any Democratic presidential nominee has given at a convention in four decades.

"{bull} Consider the images in the biographical video that introduced him: snapshots of a young Kerry squinting into the sun with the crew of the swift boat he captained in Vietnam, and of him standing ramrod-straight in a crisp white uniform as a Bronze Star was pinned on his chest.

"{bull} Consider the friend he chose to introduce him: former Georgia senator Max Cleland, a veteran who returned from Vietnam in a wheelchair, both legs and one arm blown off by a grenade.

"{bull} Consider the words he used in his speech: Strength. Tough. Fight. Defend. Force. Attack. Security."

The press loves a call to war more than, say, a call for spending more money on after-school programs.

The Chicago Tribune | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/elections/conventions/chi-0407300220jul30.story is Lincolnesque in conjuring up Kerry's essence:

"Vietnam is John Kerry's log cabin.

"It's the one-word code he employs to connect him to the common man. That he, as a child of privilege, fought alongside foot soldiers, by choice. It says that when he had to pick a path, he chose the one that put him in harm's way. It says courage and strength. It means he could be commander in chief.

"Or so he desperately hopes."

For The Washington Post | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25955-2004Jul29.html, it's a roll of the dice:

"John F. Kerry staked his hopes for the White House Thursday night on a gamble that would have seemed almost unimaginable for a Democrat not so long ago, challenging President Bush to a debate on the twin pillars of Republican success: values and security. . . .

"At its heart, it was an attempt to turn the policies of the Bush administration on their head and argue in often toughly worded language that there is a different way to keep the country safe, a better way to make it prosperous, and a less divisive way to govern."

The New York Post | http://nypost.com/news/nationalnews/25834.htm, by contrast, depicts a more openly partisan, negative speech:

"At the biggest moment of his political life, Democrat John Kerry last night painted President Bush as a war-monger who doesn't tell the truth and misled America into war."

The speech was that too--I might quarrel with the war-monger part--but nearly all of Kerry's attacks were by implication (except for the line where he slammed Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft by job title).

Slate's William Saletan | http://slate.msn.com/id/2104539/ tries to parse the emotion of the speech:

"I don't know how much of John Kerry's acceptance speech the candidate penned himself. I don't know who suggested which lines, how many drafts there were, or who edited them. But I can tell you who wrote the speech: George W. Bush.

"The power of the speech, reflected in a deafening series of ovations that consumed the FleetCenter tonight, came not from Kerry's biography or the themes he brought to the campaign two years ago. It came from his expression of widespread, pent-up outrage at the offenses of the Bush administration."

But Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com doesn't join the chorus of praise, though he's been arguing that Kerry needed to make the war his top priority:

"The first and most obvious thing to say about Kerry's speech was that it was far too long. You have to believe that this was a conscious decision, and not an accident. The man couldn't edit it, or his advisers couldn't decide whose soaring rhetoric was better, or no one had the authority to remove the third that should have been removed to give the rest of it time to breathe, and the audience to respond.

"But perhaps the result was, in some ways, beneficial. Kerry rushed through this speech and so lost some of the deeply ponderous boredom of his usual speaking style. But the effect was still hurried, breathless and because he kept having to calm the crowd down, condescending.

"There were passages toward the end when he picked up and seemed to do better. But it was a B - performance, not as disastrous as Al Gore's rant in 2000, but nowhere near the level of the best. I mean, even Dole was better eight years ago. Some of it was so pompous and self-congratulatory I almost gagged."

We're glad he's still breathing.

Not all conservatives hated it. The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Last | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/414oogtn.asp pronounces the effort "a very, very good speech; the kind of speech that will confound Republicans who dismissed him as a stilted, awkward phony. It is the kind of speech that should cause serious concern at Bush HQ.

"As a performance, it's top-notch stuff--easily the best talk Kerry's given on the campaign trail.

"He smiles throughout and keeps his Don't-I-Look-Like-a-President voice under control. One of the mysterious things about Kerry on the stump has always been that he's very good with small audiences (groups with fewer than about 300) and very bad with larger crowds (and on television). For the first time, he shows that he can handle the big stage.

"The biggest improvement in his delivery is that tonight, Kerry looks as though he's having fun, that he's happy to be here. It is the same spirit his campaign has had since the night of his massive upset at the Iowa caucuses. It's not the thrill of victory he's feeling; it's the exhilaration of having been shot at and missed.

"The substance of the speech is also quite effective, although it doesn't hold up under, say, an hour's worth of scrutiny."

Josh Marshall | http://talkingpointsmemo.com/ offers qualified praise:

"Not a stem-winder -- and Kerry would have been foolish to try. But a solid speech. And I thought he hit all the right points -- with the right emotional tenor. In a way, sitting in the hall and watching the back of Kerry's head most of the time is no way to judge how it appeared on TV. But that's my snap judgment."

In the Internet age, is there any other kind?

Other conservatives were unenthusiastic.

InstaPundit: | http://instapundit.com "A not-bad speech, badly delivered. It was short on substance, and long on cliches, but nomination acceptance speeches often are. It was too long, and his delivery was rushed. I don't think it will swing the momentum in his favor, which is what he needed."

That's the thing about critiquing a speech--it's all so inherently subjective, like critics disagreeing over a movie. It's all the more remarkable, therefore, that the mainstream media--the folks who don't overtly come at politics from the left or the right--were nearly unanimous in hailing the speech. That, I predict, will convince people out there that it was a better speech than they might have thought.

But--drumroll please--will it lead to a bounce? My thoughts | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25845-2004Jul29.html on the journalistic bounce obsession here.

Newsweek blogger Howard Fineman | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A25845-2004Jul29.html tries to identify an Edwards problem:

"Edwards is a handsome and youthful-looking fellow, almost movie star quality. At 51 he remains almost alarmingly boyish. But that didn't help him -- in fact, it hurt him -- when he gazed ahead and sternly announced to al-Qaida: 'We will destroy you!' He looked far too nice to harm a fly. On the 'Hardball' set, Andrea Mitchell called him 'pretty' -- her words, not mine.

"The speech was flawlessly delivered. But it was something of a pastiche, with the Edwards stump speech sandwiched between slices of Kerry Team rhetoric. One very well-placed friend of Edwards told me the speech was 'dial group' tested, and it came off that way: a committee-devised appeal to target voters.

"John Kerry had his press secretary call me just now to say that the Kerry team command had not been in control of the speech. Others tell me just the opposite."

A rare deviation from message control!

It takes awhile to figure out whether Slate's Dana Stevens | http://slate.msn.com/id/2104473/ likes the Head Hardballer or not:

"As the night's big speeches got rolling, Matthews' internal censor went on an extended coffee break. Amidst the generalized hum of pundit praise after Barack Obama's keynote speech, Matthews admitted to feeling 'a little chill in my . . . legs right now.' (He actually paused a little before 'legs,' as if struggling to locate the sensation.) But Matthews is nothing if not polymorphously perverse; he's the first to acknowledge that the blond down on those chubby gams stands on end for the ladies as well.

"Discussing Teresa Heinz Kerry's controversial 'Shove it' in the post-primetime wrap-up, he asked Richard Holbrooke, the Kerry adviser and former U.N. ambassador: 'Do you think the American people have an appetite for a spicy woman of Latin background from Africa?' Ay caramba! Minutes later, he was confessing to no one in particular: 'I don't mind saying I find her very attractive -- a European film star in the vein of Jeanne Moreau, or Anouk Aimee. But not everyone loves foreign movies like I do.'

"Matthews in convention-comedown mode is something every media junkie should witness at least once. At one point, again addressing Holbrooke, he began, 'I'm just wondering if you, as a political analyst . . . ' After a pause (insofar as Chris Matthews can ever be said to 'pause') he came to a realization: 'Well, I'm a political analyst, I suppose.' That description (like everything else on Hardball) is subject to debate. But Matthews is certainly something that political coverage on TV could use more of: a loose cannon."

Finally, Roger Simon | http://www.rogersimon.com/archive/006317.html#006317 has something to say about the broadcast networks:

"I am not saying that Tuesday night at the Democratic convention was the most electrifying or informative in the history of politics.

"I am saying it was more electrifying and informative than 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' 'Last Comic Standing,' 'Navy NCIS' and 'Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy.'

"But that is what the commercial TV networks brought us instead of covering even one second of the convention.

"The networks are barely covering the convention at all. They are broadcasting just one live hour a night for three nights. Tuesday night, they broadcast nothing live at all.

"I think that is embarrassing. Especially considering the tripe they are broadcasting instead.

"How embarrassing is it? This embarrassing: According to the Boston Herald, the Arab news network, al Jazeera, 'is airing more live prime-time broadcasting' of the Democratic convention 'each night than the major commercial American networks.' Al Jazeera, according to the newspaper, is broadcasting 90 minutes of the convention each night."

Yes, but the Jazeera guys have no access to "Trading Spouses."