Bush, Kerry Focus On Debate Prep, Limit Campaign Events
President Bush and John Kerry are prepping for their Thursday face-off, the first of three, with several days of mock debates with aides and close advisers. As a result, they are limiting campaign events. Heading into the debates, Reuters says "Kerry will get perhaps his last chance to convince Americans he is up to the job."
USA Today reports Bush holed up "at his ranch near Crawford, Texas" while Kerry and his staff met "at a rustic resort in Spring Green, Wis." Sen. Judd Gregg is "standing in as Kerry" for Bush's mock sessions, while Clinton Administration official Greg Craig "will be subbing for Bush in Kerry's mock debates." The Washington Post reports Kerry "chose to practice at a resort in Spring Green, Wis., so that he could be visible in the state for the next few days." Meanwhile, aides "portrayed Bush's preparations as casual, pointing out that he also has done a little fishing and a lot of mountain biking."
Both sides are also playing the expectations game. CBS News Radio reports that "looking to lowball expectations about how President Bush will do in Thursday's debate, a top White House aide portrays John Kerry as a rhetorical master." White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett "called Kerry an all-star debater dating back to his days in prep school and in the Ivy League." The Washington Times reports Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe "pointed to" President Bush's 2000 debate with Al Gore "as an example of the president's rhetorical skill, ignoring the image projected by Democrats before that encounter and since of Mr. Bush as a bumbler and an intellectual lightweight."
Coverage of the upcoming debates were the predominant story on the Sunday news and talk shows. On ABC's This Week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel said Kerry's "advantage is that I think many people are going to cue in, because they've made a decision on the President. They're looking at John Kerry, and they're going to take his measure." On Fox News Sunday, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who debated Kerry in their 1996 Senate matchup, said Kerry's "strength is that he knows the issues absolutely cold, particularly the domestic issues. And he's one of the most articulate people in public life, if not the most." Also on Fox News Sunday, Democrat Tony Mauro, who debated Bush in a 1998 gubernatorial race, said, "President Bush will be totally focused. He will be talking directly to the American people. He will be using the same themes he's practiced over and over and over again. There will be no surprises."