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Carville, Begala to argue other side on 'Crossfire'

Paul Begala, left, and James Carville, new co-hosts of CNN's
Paul Begala, left, and James Carville, new co-hosts of CNN's "Crossfire"  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Liberal stalwarts James Carville and Paul Begala, key players in Bill Clinton's rise to the presidency in 1992, were named Wednesday as new co-hosts of CNN's revamped version of "Crossfire."

Carville and Begala will square off against current conservative "Crossfire" co-hosts Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson, starting on April 1, in an expanded version of the long-running political debate program.

In addition to its new lineup, the program will grow to an hour-long format and will air live from an auditorium at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The new format will make "Crossfire" the only nightly live talk show with an audience on television.

"James Carville and Paul Begala are two of the most electric personalities in politics," said Teya Ryan, the executive vice president and general manager of CNN/US, in making the announcement.

"Their tremendous experience on the campaign trail and in the White House, as well as their passion for their political points of view, is certain to ratchet up the level of debate on the new 'Crossfire.' "

CNN officials believe the new hosts and the new format will revitalize a program that has been a staple on the cable network since its launch 20 years ago, when it was considered revolutionary. The new format, they said, will allow for a greater number of guests and a wider array of topics. It will encourage audience members to join in the debate.

The show's core concept will remain the same, with one host with a liberal point of view and one with a conservative bent, engaging in friendly sparring with each other and with guests that include the nation's top newsmakers and political figures. Carville and Begala will take turns as the co-hosts "on the left," while Novak and Carlson will alternate as co-hosts "on the right."

Bill Press, the program's current co-host voicing the liberal viewpoint, will remain with CNN as a political contributor to other programs.

Carville and Begala rose to national prominence as principles of the political consulting firm that guided Clinton to the White House. Begala later served in the Clinton administration as counselor to the president.

Carville continued to provide Clinton with political advice during his presidency. His wife, Republican strategist and Bush administration adviser Mary Matalin, is a former conservative co-host of "Crossfire."

"I've fought the Bushes. I've fought the Starrs. I've fought the Thornburghs," Carville said in a statement. "Now I am ready to take on the Novaks and the Carlsons."

The show's conservative co-hosts, however, seem ready for battle.

"How do you whimper in Cajun? We'll find out," Carlson said of Carville. "As for Begala, my guess is he'll be right-wing in a year."




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