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Inside Politics

Cheney, Edwards practice debate skills

Vice president, Democratic challenger to square off Tuesday

In their debate, Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards will be asked 16 questions by moderator Gwen Ifill.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Working from training camps more than 1,500 miles apart, the Democratic and Republican vice presidential candidates prepared over the weekend for their debate Tuesday in Cleveland, Ohio.

Democratic Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was in the upstate New York town of Chautauqua, working with Sen. John Kerry's senior advisers Bob Shrum and Ron Klain, and Edwards' wife, Elizabeth.

The campaign re-created the debate set at a conference center complete with television cameras.

Two run-throughs were planned, with Washington attorneys Bob Barnett in the role of Vice President Dick Cheney and Andy Pincus playing moderator Gwen Ifill, a senior correspondent for PBS. Barnett also played the role of Cheney for Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2000.

Edwards had wanted a podium or town hall format, but at the Bush-Cheney team's insistence, the two will sit a few feet from each other across a desk. Edwards "feels comfortable" with the format, spokesman Mark Kornblau said.

During a break Sunday afternoon, Edwards and his wife bought three pumpkins and two pies -- one blueberry and one rhubarb -- at Haff Acres Farm in nearby Mayville.

He heads Monday to Cleveland, where an evening rally will likely be held, his campaign said.

The debate, the only one planned between the two candidates, will start at 9 p.m. ET and will last 90 minutes. There are no restrictions on the topics of the 16 questions Ifill will ask.

Cheney will answer the first question, a decision made by coin flip.

In the presidential debate Thursday, Kerry answered the first foreign policy question from Jim Lehrer, anchor of "The NewsHour" on PBS. Kerry and President Bush will debate Friday in St. Louis, Missouri, in a town hall format. Their third debate, on economic and domestic issues, is scheduled for October 13 in Tempe, Arizona.

Asked whether Edwards' experience as a personal injury trial lawyer would help him, Kornblau replied, "They are two very different things -- arguing in front of a jury [instead of] millions of people. This is a political debate, not a trial."

Kornblau acknowledged that Cheney, in contrast with Edwards, is an experienced one-on-one debater.

Cheney sparred at his home in Jackson, Wyoming, with Rep. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, who has been playing the role of Edwards in weekend practice sessions with the vice president since mid-August.

Cheney has picked up the pace during the past few days, said campaign spokeswoman Anne Womack, and last weekend had two practices at his home in Washington. The weekend's sessions began Friday and were expected to wind up Sunday.

Cheney planned to go fishing Monday and was expected to travel Tuesday to Cleveland, Womack said.

Portman, who played the role of Lieberman in 2000, has studied the mannerisms and body language of Edwards by watching tapes of his closing arguments as a trial lawyer and his Sentate speeches. He also watched Edwards' primary election debates.

Womack alluded to Edwards' success in front of juries as a trial attorney, but she said, "This debate will come down to substance. It will come down to who can make the better case. Vice President Cheney will focus on making that case."

CNN's Catherine Berger and Steve Turnham contributed to this report.

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