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CNN Today

Candidates Will Stress Their Differences in Final Debate

Aired October 17, 2000 - 1:06 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: Preparations are underway for the third and final presidential debate. Democrat Al Gore will go up against Republican George W. Bush in a town hall-style event in St. Louis.

CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in St. Louis, waiting on that debate. She joins us live.

Candy, I was talking to Bill Schneider, our political analyst, just before we went on here; asked him what he thought the weight of tonight's debate would be on the presidential campaign. He said very little.

How do the campaigns feel about it?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the campaigns feel -- both of them have felt all along that -- they saw the debates as a series, that there are three of them and that people go away with the sense that comes from all three of those debates.

Far be it for me to disagree with Bill, but I do think that, when you have a race that is as tight as this, with Governor Bush enjoying just a very slight edge, you do have the possibility -- in a town-hall meeting where undecided voters are going to ask questions of the governor and the vice president -- of something surprising happening, of something taking one or the other of the candidates a bit off guard or a bit aback.

Mistakes, at this point, get magnified because we are so close to the election and because this really is the last time that these two men will stand on the stage together and Americans can judge them, sort of, side-by-side.

WATERS: Bill also indicated that the polls are suggesting that voters could vote for either one of these fellows, that there isn't much difference between them. That would indicate, perhaps, the necessity for, like, a bold move during this final debate.

Rather than watching for mistakes, might we be watching for some bold move by one of the other of the candidates?

CROWLEY: Well, the problem with bold moves is they can cut both ways. I think what you have right now are two very cautious candidates who don't want to go into something, make a bold move that, you know, perhaps some people would like but some people might not. I mean, they're trying not to make mistakes but, yet, they are trying to define the differences. I take that point, absolutely, that there needs to be something between these two men that people can say, well, you know, here is the difference between the two of them. And since there's such a broad pool of, not just undecided voters, but people that may be in one camp or the other, but their support is not all that solid, they could go to the other camp.

So I think what you're looking for here, and I know one of the things that the Bush camp wants to do is paint Al Gore, as he did in the second and the first debate, as a big-government guy. That here's the difference: He wants to put all the money and the power in Washington, I want to give it to you and the states and the localities. That's one of the differences that the Bush campaign wants to make.

Obviously, on the Gore side they would like very much to bring up some of the Texas record. They think that has some resonance out there on matters of health care and treatment of families and education.

So I think you'll see them try to show the differences. I would be very cautious about expecting a bold move in the last three weeks of a campaign where it's dead even. If you liken it to a football game, as some people have, you don't need to go for the hail Mary pass here, but you need to move forward, and that takes a little more cautious play -- Lou.

WATERS: All right; senior political correspondent Candy Crowley covering us in St. Louis where the debate is scheduled for tonight.

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