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Election 2000 Presidential Debate: Bush, Gore Set to Face Off in Boston

Aired October 3, 2000 - 2:06 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: With little more than a month before Americans choose their next president, candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush face off for the first of three scheduled debates tonight in Boston. Part civics lesson, part television spectacle, tonight's debate will give many voters their first real chance to compare and contrast the two men, their policies and their personalities.

Senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us now with a preview -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, we are less than seven hours from show time, that 90-minute face-to-face Al Gore versus George Bush. The principals are beginning to collect here in Boston. George Bush arrived at the airport a couple of hours ago, greeted a few people on the tarmac, and then made a beeline for the debate center. he took a look at the podium, generally checked it out. For the most part, the Bush aides say that the governor will spend this afternoon relaxing, maybe taking a nap, trying to shake loose.

As for Al Gore. he left Florida a couple of hours ago. He, too, is en route to Boston. He has plans similar to those of Gov. Bush. He will check out the podium at the debate site as well as try to relax with a little exercise and perhaps a little rest.

It is hard to overemphasize how critical this particular juncture is. First debates are always important, this one even more so than in years past because of the tight race. Only yesterday, the "USA Today"/CNN/ Gallup poll, the tracking poll taken every day and then averaged over three days, shows a dead heat, 45-45. That means that any little thing can push this race one way or the other for a candidate. The key here tonight, both candidates have been told that they must be themselves. They have also been told, and they know from history, that most candidates do not generally win debates, but their opponent can't lose them. So they are trying, if not to win, at least not to lose -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And do either focus more on personality than policy, or do you try to give a lot of both on a key night like tonight, Candy?

CROWLEY: They both say, and both their camps say, they want to talk about policy and they want to contrast, you know, their education policies, their tax-cut policies, their Medicare proposals and that sort of thing. So there will be a lot of that. But the fact is that much of that has been out there, most of it has been out there for so long. And this is the first chance -- we expect an audience maybe of up to 80 million people -- have to have seen these -- to see these two men react to one another and to see them really in a 90-minute, as they call it, "unfiltered" way.

So it is really going to be hard to separate the policies from the men who are proposing them. It is a mixture of both. And very often, as you know, in the past, debates have come down to a really good one-liner. Most of them have been practiced well ahead of time.

But there is a sense that -- both campaigns know that there is a sense coming out of a debate of how each man did, and it includes not just policy but personality and, you know, the nature of the man.

ALLEN: Have the two ever come face to face before? Have they crossed each other in their long years of being involved in politics?

CROWLEY: George Bush says he thinks he remembers perhaps seeing Al Gore, as I recall. There certainly has not been any formal occasion that either man remembers with any clarity. So this is the first time, but they've sized each other up pretty well over the past year and a half, I suspect.

ALLEN: I bet they have. Candy Crowley covering things for us from Boston. Thanks, Candy.

And stay with CNN, your election 2000 headquarters, for complete coverage of tonight's debate. It all begins with a special one-hour preview at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The questioning gets under way at 9:00, 6:00 Pacific. Immediately following, CNN and "Time" magazine will present a special town hall meeting. "The Voters Respond" airs at 10:30 Eastern, 7:30 Pacific exclusively here on CNN.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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