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Kinder, Gentler Gore Levels Playing Field for Bush (posted October 12, 2000)

The second presidential debate saw a kinder, gentler Al Gore holding back his smirks and limiting his attacks on Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. However, the problem with Gore's low-key strategy is that it blurred differences between the candidates, prevented the vice president from pointing out Bush's flaws, and put the Texan on a level playing field with Gore, especially in the area of foreign policy, where both presented similar positions.

Between the soft format, the asking of questions where the two candidates agreed, and Gore's decision to play softball rather than hardball, Bush came out ahead. Indeed, nearly every network instant poll conducted right after the debate gave Bush the edge over Gore (although the margin varied from +16 from ABC and +13 in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey to just +3 from CBS).

Expect the Gore gloves to come off in next week's third presidential debate. Vice President Gore cannot afford to let Bush close the stature gap to the extent that he has and blur differences between the candidates. Unless Gore adopts a feistier pose and points out differences with Governor Bush, voters will assume there are few differences and go for the more likable Bush over the more knowledgeable Gore.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services