Bush, Gore Aides Preview Second Debate

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - "I don't think the American people want to spend the next four years having to put every presidential utterance to the truth test," said Karen Hughes, communications director of the Bush campaign Wednesday.

Hughes, representing the Republican presidential candidate, and William Daley, chairman of the Al Gore presidential campaign, both appeared on NBC's Today show Wednesday. In separate interviews, they discussed what's at stake for each candidate in tonight's debate.

Daley said he thinks the American people will make a final decision on the candidates after watching all three debates. "I don't think any one of [the debates] is going to be the determining event in this campaign," he said, adding that "each one is important, but no one is more important than the last one."

Daley admitted that Gore may have "emoted a little too much" in the first debate. But he said Gore, again tonight, "will outline in specificity his plans that will keep our economy strong and protect our senior citizens." Daley stressed Gore's "knowledge of the issues" and "his ability to lead America."

As for questions about whether Gore has broken his promise to avoid personal attacks - sending his running mate off on a "failed leadership tour" of Texas, for example - Daley said it's only fair to look at the leadership record in Texas.

"I think it's an honest debate, a serious question, when somebody (George W. Bush) stands up and says, 'I'm a great leader' -- okay, he should not be hesitant to have people look at the record in Texas."

Daley defended the campaign's decision to frame the debate in negative terms by calling Joe Lieberman's visit to Texas a "failed leadership tour."

"When you look at the type of attacks George Bush and his running mate Dick Cheney have done themselves to Al Gore, it's been rather a tough campaign by them, not only in the last couple weeks but over the last year, year-and-a-half."

Hughes said the Bush campaign is eager for another chance to present its case to the American people.

"We're hoping tonight to build on Gov. Bush's success in that first debate. We feel he was very successful at defining the philosophical differences between his compassionate conservative philosophy and the big buildup of Big Government that Al Gore is suggesting."

She said Bush hopes to touch on the five points of his agenda for American families on Wednesday, and she listed those five points as improving schools; saving Social Security for the next generation; adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare' rebuilding the military to keep the peace; and providing tax relief for everyone, not just a select few.

Hughes said tonight's format should lend itself to a more "thoughtful" exchange, one that will allow Bush to better explain his compassionate conservative philosophy.

"We want to challenge some of Vice President Gore's misrepresentations...We're talking more about the substance," she said, noting that Gore in the first debate "completely misrepresented" Bush's prescription drug plan as well as the differences in their education policies.

"We hope to be able to delve more into the substance of the differences between the two candidates' proposals and also their philosophies," said Hughes. She defined those differences as Bush trusting individuals to make decisions for their families, whereas Gore, in her words, is "promoting a big buildup of Big Government."

Hughes also suggested that being a governor is no automatic barrier to successfully handling foreign policy.

Just as when Gov. Clinton was elected president, Hughes said, "Gov. Bush does not have the extensive experience of dealing with countries around the world, but he does have a great deal of experience in dealing with Mexico....and he has assembled a great team of foreign policy advisers."