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CNN's Bill Schneider: Bush, Gore face tests in debate

(CNN) -- CNN political analyst Bill Schneider previews tonight's debate between presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore:

Question: What should viewers be looking for in the debate tonight?

Answer: Each candidate faces a challenge.

Bush faces a stature gap. He has to show voters he's big enough for the job. Viewers should look for whether he can make his figures add up. Gore is sure to challenge him on whether he can pay for his tax cut and spending increases without busting the surplus. Does he appear presidential? That means controlling his language so he doesn't make embarrassing misstatements. Controlling his manner so he doesn't appear smirky and arrogant. And showing enough grasp of the issues that he can hold his own against the vice president.

Gore will try to keep Bush on the defensive. Bush has to show he can control the tone and tenor of the debate by going on the offensive against Gore.

And one final thing: Bush has to reassure voters that he will be in control of his party. Republicans already control Congress. If Bush wins, Republicans could hold the White House and Congress for the first time since 1954. Bush has to show voters that he will control the more extreme elements of his party in Congress -- that they won't control him.

Q: What does Gore have to do?

A: Gore faces a credibility gap. Too often, Gore seems totally driven by political calculation. He has to connect with voters and show them that they can trust him.

Viewers should look for whether his answers seem believable. He's got to resist his tendency to embellish the facts. And to pander.

In previous debates, Gore has been a killer. He's impressive, but he can also be unpleasant and off-putting to voters. Sometimes nasty. Sometimes condescending. Can Gore keep those tendencies under control?

Gore's got to balance the Clinton factor -- claim credit for the good times under Clinton while keeping a distance from Clinton personally. Watch for how he relates to the president.

And finally, voters want change this year. A different style of leadership. Vice President Bush did that in 1988 when he talked about a kinder, gentler America. How's Gore going to do that?

Q: And what happens if each of them does all those things?

A: Then we'll be right back where we are today -- a dead heat. Until next week's debate.

 

EUROPE'S VIEW
Where do Bush and Gore stand on issues of importance to Europe? Launch our Interactive Guide.

POLLS
View the latest tracking poll or dig into our poll archives.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

VIDEO
Watch selected policy speeches and campaign commercials from the major presidential candidates.

WHERE THEY STAND
See where George W. Bush and Al Gore stand on the major issues.

THE STATES
Who are your elected officials? What is the past presidential vote and number of electoral votes in your state? What are the presidential primary results and exit polls? Find out with these state political and election facts.

ELECTION GUIDE
Get Election 2000 zip code searchable candidate biographies and other material for races for governor, Senate and House in our Election Guide.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
How much money have the candidates raised? Here are their quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission.

RACES
If you need to know who's up in 2000 and what seats are open, launch this quick guide.

WEB WHITE AND BLUE
Allpolitics.com is a partner in the Web White and Blue rolling cyber-debate, a daily online exchange among the major presidential candidates. Look for twice-daily updates Sunday through Friday until election day.


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Tuesday, October 3, 2000


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