Thursday, October 12, 2000

Panel: Civility helped discourse

Candidates showed differences well

By Howard Wilkinson and Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Even though they saw no clear winner, The Enquirer's voter panel believed the second presidential debate Wednesday night allowed George W. Bush and Al Gore to draw contrasts while being reasonably civil about it.

        “If people watched this debate and watched the one last week and can't see a basic difference between these two men, then I don't know when they are going to see it,” said Charles Nuckolls, a 73-year-old retired educator from Paddock Hills.

        Steve Devoto, a 48-year-old markets consultant from Villa Hills, said he thought that Mr. Bush dominated the first hour of the debate, with strong statements on foreign policy and how the U.S. military should be used.

        He said Mr. Gore made a comeback in the last half hour talking about health-care coverage and Mr. Bush's record on the issue in Texas.

        “Health care is an issue where there are clear differences, but I was disappointed that neither one of them addressed the issue of the cost of health care,” Mr. Devoto said.

        Dottie Swenty, a homemaker from Mount Adams, said she thought Mr. Bush appeared rehearsed when it came to his answers on foreign and military affairs.

        “He obviously had a lot of coaching, because he was so much more specific than in the first debate,” Mrs. Swenty said.

        Mr. Bush, she said, comes across “as a very likable person. But presidential? I don't think so.”

        Pete Witte, the 30-year-old owner of an engraving company in Price Hill, said he was not surprised that Mr. Bush “appeared to be coached; all of these guys are coached.

        “I really like what Bush had to say about foreign policy,” Mr. Witte said. “We don't have to go in and hold every country's hand.”

        Ryan Day, 21, a Xavier University student, said he believed Mr. Bush came across better, “although it's difficult to declare a winner.

        “I think Bush formed the difference better between himself and Gore — one is for limited government and the other is for larger government,” Mr. Day said.

        The panel was split on which candidate will benefit in the polls based on their debate performance.

        “It's my prediction Gore will get a bounce out of this,” Mr. Nuckolls said. “He came across as the candidate who is knowledgeable, intelligent enough and has the temperament to lead the country. Bush is just extremely weak when it comes to articulating his position and he just isn't presidential material.”

        Mr. Day said Mr. Bush will see his polling numbers rise.

        “Bush very much benefited from the format of this debate,” he said. “He came across as very personable, very down to earth, very likable. And all those things are important to voters, but he also came across as sound and intelligent on the issues.”

        Mr. Devoto said Mr. Gore does come across as more experienced, but Mr. Bush helped himself not just because of his personality but also because of the strength of his convictions.

        “If my son or daughter is in the military and going into battle ... I just feel safer with Bush. I believe him more,” he said.


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