Who won the debate on Sunday night?
It was a runaway victory for Republican Jerry W. Kilgore, who spoke clearly and honestly while his opponent, Democrat Timothy M. Kaine, evaded answers and looked shifty.
Or, Kaine was the clear victor, offering smart, substantive answers while Kilgore ducked and dodged, giving canned, sound-bite speeches.
Neither is true, of course. Most news organizations and political pundits declared the debate a draw, giving both candidates credit for holding their own while noting that neither went far beyond his campaign rhetoric.
But don't tell that to the bloggers on both sides of the aisle.
Virginia's political blogs were full of insta-analysis moments after the debate, which was moderated by University of Virginia professor Larry J. Sabato.
One blogger -- Chad Dotson at Commonwealth Conservative (www.vaconservative.com) -- did a minute-by-minute running commentary during the event:
7:43: Another death penalty question! Kaine must be cringing.
7:44: Now Sabato is hammering Kaine on the NRA "F" rating.
7:45: Confederate history month question. Not a great answer by Kilgore, but adequate.
7:46: Gas tax question to Kilgore. Great opportunity.
7:47: This debate is being fought on turf that is positive for Kilgore. Gas tax, death penalty, illegal immigration. Good stuff.
The blogs are a new and dynamic phenomenon in Virginia politics, giving voice to some of the most rabid opinions across the philosophical spectrum. Here's a sampling of their early analysis.
* Lowell Feld, at Raising Kaine (www.raisingkaine.com/blog): "The winner of this debate? Tim Kaine, for telling the truth and trying as hard as possible to stay positive. The big losers? The people of Virginia, who were forced to listen to Jerry Kilgore's lies, evasions, and negativity."
* From Dotson, at Commonwealth Conservative: "Jerry Kilgore took a very big step toward being elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. . . . Tonight, Kaine appeared visibly shaken during several exchanges, as the moderators pressed him on some of his liberal stances."
* From Kenton Ngo, 750 Volts (www.kentonngo.com/750volts): "Kaine kicked Kilgore butt. Tim Kaine was the only candidate offering a positive message, as opposed to Jerry Kilgore, who wouldn't pledge to keep half of his TV ads positive. Kilgore dodged, bobbed, and weaved."
* From Old Zach at Sic Semper Tyrannis (sicsempertyrannis.blogspot.com): "Tim Kaine's record is atrocious. As a result, Mark Warner's record is the only leg he has to stand on. If Kaine cannot convince the voters that he is Mark Warner Jr., he will lose. I do not think that he did an effective job of doing so tonight."
The conservative bloggers seemed transfixed by Kaine's physical appearance, especially his left eyebrow, which tends to rise, Spocklike, when he talks.
* Norman Leahy, at One Man's Trash (www.onemanstrash.blogspot.com), was particularly bothered.
"Kaine. Good lord . . . what's the deal with that eyebrow? And the make-up . . . too much rouge on the cheekbones, tiger. He had a smooth delivery, and was quick on his feet . . . but those eyes tell a different story. Sure, I'll uphold the laws on the death penalty. Trust me (arch, arch, arch goes the brow). Even my six year-old pointed it out: 'what's wrong with his eye?' "
* Shipwrecked, at Cries in the Night (criesinthenight.blogspot.com), asked: "Does anyone else find Kaine's raised eyebrow very, very annoying?"
Liberal bloggers, by contrast, focused on Kilgore's awkward, sometimes fumbling, answers, though most saw him doing better than he had in the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate last month.
Feld wrote: "Perhaps Jerry Kilgore feels like a winner simply because he didn't completely collapse and fall flat on his face, given his god-awful performances in previous debates."
Even a few of the conservative bloggers thought Kilgore could have done better stylistically.
* James A. Bacon Jr., at Bacon's Rebellion (www.baconsrebellion.com) said, "Kilgore stumbled over a few words early on, and he relied a bit more upon canned phrases than Kaine, but he otherwise held his own."
The person to get the most kudos, though, was moderator Sabato. The professor of politics designed a debate with more than 30 rapid-fire questions, more than twice the number asked in previous debates.
Leahy seemed to sum up the commentary about Sabato from the blogosphere.
"The only clear-cut winner on all counts tonight was Larry Sabato," Leahy said. "He was the star, he got the best lines and he was clearly enjoying the attention."