VP candidates preparing to show off debate mettle

By EDWARD WALSH

The Washington Post

So much for the main event. Let’s get to the preliminary.

Two days after Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush laid out deep philosophical differences in the first of three nationally televised debates, their running mates take center stage tonight in their only debate of the campaign on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Ky.

The stakes in this debate and the expected television audience will be smaller than they were Tuesday night in Boston, if only because vice presidential candidates are, by their nature, of secondary importance.

But for both Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and his Republican opponent, former defense secretary Dick Cheney, tonight’sc debate will provide probably their best chance to influence the outcome of what remains an exceptionally close contest.

Wednesday, the two candidates began positioning themselves for their only face-to-face confrontation of the campaign. In Richmond, Ky., where he has been hard at work at "debate camp" since Sunday, Lieberman said he would use the debate to contrast Gore and Bush policy initiatives, especially their differences over how to use the budget surplus.

Stressing a theme that Gore invoked repeatedly during his debate with Bush, Lieberman said, "Our opponents would basically waste the surplus by spending it all on one big tax cut that goes overwhelmingly to the wealthy, will probably put the country back in debt — which we don’t want to do."

Meanwhile, Cheney held a fourth and final mock debate practice session, with Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, playing the role of Lieberman. At a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters, Cheney said he viewed the debate as "a conversation with the American people."

Picking up a frequent Bush theme from Tuesday night, he said he hoped voters would understand that there are "fundamental underlying differences" between the two campaigns, with the Republicans advocating "a process of letting people make choices for themselves."

Since the two national political conventions, Lieberman has received generally high marks as Gore’s running mate. He is the first Jewish candidate of either major party to be nominated for vice president, a 30-year veteran of Connecticut politics with a folksy, joke-cracking public manner.

In contrast, Cheney has been criticized, even by some Republicans, for what they see as an overly serious, almost dour demeanor and ill-at-ease campaign style. He won six terms in the House from Wyoming, but he has not held elective office for 12 years and last debated a political opponent in 1988.

"Cheney has the tougher job," said Alan Schroeder, an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and author of a book on the presidential debates. "On a very basic level, he kind of needs to introduce himself to the voters. I’m not sure people have quite figured out who he is. Lieberman comes into this with a lot of good will."

Republican strategists said they expected the vice presidential debate to be substantive and serious. But the GOP operatives also made clear that Cheney will seek to highlight what he and his advisers see as inconsistencies between some of the positions Lieberman now espouses as Gore’s running mate and stands he has taken on the same issues in the past.

"Joe Lieberman is changing before our eyes," said Ari Fleischer, a Bush campaign spokesman. "The question is how far he will go now that he has to parrot Al Gore’s positions."

Portman, who described Cheney as "cool under fire," said his goal in the debate will be "to simply stick to the approach he has taken as a straight talker with incredible experience and knowledge. The more people see him, the more they like him."

Democrats said they believe Cheney is likely to criticize Lieberman for muting his stands against violence and sex in the entertainment industry and his past criticism of affirmative action policy.

Lieberman said Wednesday that he is "going to do all I can to try to make sure it (the debate) is not all negative, back and forth, personal attack stuff." But if the confrontation does turn rough, a key aide noted that Lieberman has a history as a tough debater who does not hold back his punches. "Lieberman is not a wimp," the aide said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.