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Debate Preview (posted October 1, 2000)

With Al Gore and George W. Bush engaged in the closest presidential campaign in several decades, this week's debates take on even greater importance than usual. With 80-90 percent of voters already having made up their minds, the debates become a wonderful opportunity for each man to attempt to sway the last 10-20 percent of the electorate that has not made up its mind.

Each man must recognize his liabilities and use the debate to address them. Gore's problems are connecting with ordinary people, being seen as too mean, and having a reputation for saying and doing whatever it takes to win. His greatest challenge is coming across to voters in a way they can relate to without appearing standoffish in the process.

For Bush, his key problem is demonstrating that he is up to the job. Because of a campaign that has been light on substance and ideas and due to public perceptions of him as a lightweight, he needs to demonstrate to voters that he has the depth to be a good president.

Every debate has an emotional hot spot that gets replayed over and over to voters. See how each candidate handles that moment, such as when Reagan in 1984 defused the age issue or Dukakis in 1988 flunked the question of how he would react if his wife were attacked. These moments often dictate the press coverage that follows an event and helps to solidify the public image of the candidate.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services