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Inside Politics

A viewer's guide to the St. Louis debate

Joe Klein's 'dos and don'ts' for the candidates

Joe Klein
America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- Do address audience questions clearly, don't slouch and absolutely no smirking. What are the key "dos and don'ts" for President Bush and Sen. John Kerry in Friday's town hall-style presidential debate?

Joe Klein, Time magazine political columnist and political contributor on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now Prime Time Politics," offers his tips before each debate. Use his list as a viewer's guide for Friday's presidential debate and see how the candidates stack up.



  • Pay more attention to the audience than to Kerry;
  • Offer more detail than last time;
  • Remember that you're basically a nice guy.
  • Don't:

  • Make faces (but you already know that);
  • Repeat yourself so much;
  • Ridicule him (it won't work with a live audience).
  • Kerry


  • Focus on the folks (same as Bush);
  • Pivot toward domestic policy (people may be getting tired of all the Iraq talk);
  • Be ready to defend your record (especially the 1991 Persian Gulf War vote).
  • Don't:

  • Be cocky;
  • Try to be too folksy -- it ain't you;
  • Let him get under your skin.

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