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Election 2000: Marquette University American Politics Students Discuss Bush-Gore Presidential Debate

Aired October 4, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Our man Jeff Flock is in Wisconsin today. He's testing the waters for those who are sizing up the debaters. Wisconsin is pretty good at selecting presidential winners. It's voted for the winning candidate in eight of the last 10 races, the two exceptions 1960 and 1988. The state has gone Democratic in the last three presidential races. Wisconsin is among the heartland battleground states that carry a total of 80 -- or rather 90 electoral votes. Wisconsin lays claim to 11 of those 90 electoral votes, potentially critical in a year when the margin could be razor thin.

CNN's Jeff Flock now. He is roaming a political science class at Marquette University.

Jeff, it's all yours.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thanks, Lou.

Speaking in hushed tones at this hour. The battleground at this hour is the American Politics class here at Marquette University. This is Professor John McAdams' (ph) American Politics class, and the debate today in class is the debate. They have been talking about expectations, about gas, about zingers.

And let's just listen in fly-on-the-wall style to what this class is about. Professor John McAdams' class:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of you have mentioned what I thought was sort of an interesting zinger, is the claim that, in the Clinton White House, the sign that says "The Buck Stops Here" has been moved from the Oval Office to the Clinton bedroom.

Important to understand, though, that in debates in the past, the audience has been much more a part of the debate. In most debates in the past, the audience would have, sometimes in spite of instructions to the contrary, laughed at a line like that. The audience consists of half very partisan Democrats and half very partisan Republicans. So any zinger generally will create an audience reaction. That didn't happen last night. So that, I think, sort of suppressed the effect of clever lines that would have mattered a lot in earlier debates.

How did the candidates present themselves? Very, very important issue. Who do you think had a better command of the facts or showed a better command of the facts? Ms. Gillette (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Bush did the better job. He was clear and to the point about what he wanted to do, and Gore basically was just sighing and heavy breathing the whole time. And then when it was his turn, he basically just put down Bush's ideas and didn't really say what he wanted to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, so you were impressed with Bush's command of the facts.

Alex, same opinion, different opinion on that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was going to say the same. I felt that Gore would answer the questions he wished he were asked instead of really answering what he was asked. And I thought that he was very unprofessional interrupting and going beyond the time. And he just didn't seem to present himself very well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Although it may well be very much a normal part of debates to answer the question you're prepared for, not the question you were asked.

Anybody else, different opinions on command of the facts? Right back here

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt very opposite to what they say. I felt that Gore did a very good job in using numbers in what he was presenting. And he may have been unprofessional with the sighing and things like that, but I do think that he presented factual numbers, whereas Bush just would state an idea and not give any sort of numerical support for it or statistics or anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK, let's -- Mr. Maguire (ph), let's give you the last word on who had the best command of the fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought Gore had tremendous more command of the facts. He kept bringing up points and numbers and Bush would come back and call them fuzzy numbers, but he'd never correct his numbers or say what was wrong or what made his things better, he would just make a general criticism or a general comment. And when it came to factual evidence and backing up what, you felt, through examples and stuff, Gore consistently did that and showed that he had a command of what he knew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, OK. Next issue, very different: Who was more affable? Who was the more pleasant person? Who was the more likable person? What do you -- how do your perceptions run on this?

Ms. Agnew (ph) over here. What did you think about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought that George Bush was definitely more likable. Al Gore came across very cocky, and with all his sighing. And I thought that George Bush just composed himself very well and came across as the real nice guy in the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, other opinions on that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to have to disagree with that. I think that Gore came across much more likable. He brought up similarities between the two. A lot of times Bush never pointed out any kind of similarity. If Gore pointed out a similarity, Bush would say, yes, but, you know, this is the difference. And I thought Bush was a lot more negative towards Gore. He was more condescending. And I thought Gore was -- came across a lot more likable.

FLOCK: Continuing to listen in here, the American Politics class, Professor McAdams' class. Today the debate is the debate, studying American politics before it makes it into the history books.

We'll continue to listen. I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, reporting live from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

WATERS: And, Jeff, we'll check in here later as the class and the comments continue, and we'll take another check.

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