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.