AllPolitics - Debates '96
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Mining California

Day After Debate II

After a debate viewed as a victory for President Bill Clinton, GOP challenger Bob Dole looked for support in his long-shot bid for California's 54-vote electoral prize.

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Up Close & Personal
The Dole Bio; The Clinton Bio; The Perot Bio

Full Debate Transcript
Read exactly what Clinton and Dole said | The Questions

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Pundits & Prose
Charles Bierbauer, Michael Kramer, Calvin Trillin, Margaret Carlson, Mike Luckovich

TIME This Week
Special Interests, Cabinet Prospects, Kemp's Crash, More!

Baseball And Debates
New e-mail looks at video jam phenomenon

N O T E B O O K A N A L Y S I S

A Sharpened Spear

"It's public ethics. I'm not talking about private, we're talking about public ethics. When you have 900 files gathered up by some guy who was a bouncer in a bar and hired as a security officer to collect files....
-- Bob Dole

Best Shield

"No attack ever created a job or educated a child or helped a family make ends meet. No insult ever cleaned up a toxic waste dump or helped an elderly person."
-- Bill Clinton

Perhaps A Preference

"I'm disabled, and I shouldn't have a preference...I would like to have one in this race, come to think of it. But I don't get one. Maybe we can work that out. I get a 10-point spot."
-- Bob Dole

And What About His Age?

"I don't think Sen. Dole is too old to be president. It's the age of his ideas that I question."
-- Bill Clinton

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A Serious Exchange

Many people watching the second and final presidential debate expected GOP challenger Bob Dole to maintain a sustained, specific attack on President Bill Clinton's ethics and character. Instead, they witnessed a serious-minded exchange on the issues, which probably did little to help or hurt either candidate.

This was the week that Dole let loose his harshest and most specific blast on the Clinton scandals, declaring Tuesday that the Democratic administration was guilty of "endless violations of public trust."

In that brief time, the horse race tightened into single digits -- Clinton at 48 percent to Dole's 39 percent -- in the latest CNN tracking poll. Many credited Dole's focus on the "character issue."

But, ultimately, Dole couldn't sustain his attack, and the candidates spent most of the evening covering familiar ground on nuts-and-bolts issues raised by people in the audience, which seemed uninterested in the character question.

Dole began the evening by stressing he understood the problems of Americans, from education to safe playgrounds to drug-free schools. But in the first question, about creating greater unity among diverse Americans, Dole launched into the FBI files controversy, in which some 900 background files, many on Republicans, were improperly collected by the Clinton White House.

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