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Newsday

Despite Sadness over Governor Carnahan's Death, Final Presidential Debate Will Proceed as Scheduled

Aired October 17, 2000 - 12:21 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Despite the shock and sadness over Governor Mel Carnahan's death in Missouri, the town-hall debate tonight in that state between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush will go on as scheduled.

CNN national correspondent Bob Franken is in St. Louis with the latest -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The one change, Frank, will be that the departure from this town hall format they are having today is at the top, the two candidates will get a chance to briefly express his feelings about the death of Governor Carnahan. Both of them knew him, both of them had extensive dealings with them, Vice President Gore as a fellow Democrat, and George Bush as a fellow governor.

Then they will go to the town hall format. You can see in back of ma all the chairs that are on the stage, chairs that will be filled with what are called the uncommitted real people, the people who will, in fact, be providing the questions, by uncommitted people who say they have not made up their minds, but might be persuaded by what goes on in this debate.

And, of course, that is what the debates are designed to do. The people who have not decided yet are the ones who possibly will be watching most closely to see if, in fact, Al Gore can score the home run that most believe that he has not been able to hit in the two previous debates.

As a matter of fact, most of the polls now, while so close that it's hard to tell a difference, show a slight trend toward George W. Bush, and Gore campaign people are quite agreeable to the concept that, in fact, he will have to try and stop those trend.

These debates will be viewed as a spring board with the election just three weeks away. We are getting down to the home stretch now, and this will be the end of the debates, and the beginning of that home stretch.

Now, as for the decision to go ahead after the death of Governor Carnahan. That was made after consultation between the two candidates' camps and the debate commission staff and representatives of Governor Carnahan. There was a firm belief that he would have wanted them to go on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET BROWN, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: I hope that this will be something done in the governor's honor that is appropriate to the level of his commitment to this country and to public service.

The only thing that will change about the format is that the moderator and the two candidates will speak at the top of the program about the governor's death. The town meeting will proceed thereafter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: And that town meeting will, then, cause the quick instant reaction, as the pollsters and the pundits decide who won, a decision, Frank, that will be made in the election three weeks from now.

Bob Franken, CNN, live in St. Louis.

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