Bush-Gore Prepare to Spar in North Carolina

By Bob Costner | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Republican presidential candidate George W Bush may find himself on friendlier turf Wednesday, for his second debate with Democratic candidate Al Gore.

Their first encounter was in Boston, Mass., one of the most liberal cities in America. Gore holds a sizeable lead over Bush in Massachusetts polls and Bush found himself the target of protesters when he arrived for the October 3rd debate.

Wednesday night, however, North Carolina's Wake Forest University plays host to the second debate. Bush holds a narrow lead over Gore in North Carolina, which offers a prize of 14 electoral votes on November 7th. Bush may also feel encouraged by the release of several national polls this week that show him ahead of Gore.

Bush arrived in North Carolina Tuesday, greeted by two-thousand supporters at Piedmond Triad International airport. Bush told them simply, "It's time for a change," and touched on many of his favorite issues -- making government smaller and allowing people, not the federal government to make decisions. He also spoke about his plans to reform Social Security and about his views on welfare reform.

Bush also borrowed from his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, telling supporters that the Clinton-Gore team has been in Washington for eight years and has failed to lead the nation on crucial issues. Bush pledged he would lead, if elected.

Gore arrives Wednesday afternoon at Smith Reynolds airport. Throngs of his supporters are expected to be on hand as well.

Third party candidates and special interest groups are also working to use Wake Forest as a platform for their views.

Doug Stuberg with the Green Party of North Carolina says his group objects to the debates because of the way they limit democracy and free speech. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader has been excluded from the presidential debates, as have other third-party candidates.

Adam Sotog with Democracy South says the National Commission on Presidential Debates accepted money from large corporations to stage the debates, which, according to Sotog, means those large corporations control the democratic process.

Cathy Barry with the Southeast Direct Action Network says by limiting the number of candidates participating in the debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates is limiting public involvement in the political process.

In all, seven groups have received permits to demonstrate. One is the animal rights group, "PETA", which is lobbying for excise taxes to be placed on the sale of all meat and poultry products, the way they are on cigarettes.

Emily Kite is a political science major at Wake Forest University and watching the preparations for the debate. Kite says she hopes Bush and Gore will cover new issues that haven't already been covered and expects the candidates to be less formal with each other in Wednesday night's event than they were during their first encounter.

Bush and Gore will be seated with moderator Jim Lehrer during Wednesday's debate. They stood at podiums when they debated in Boston.

Bob Costner is the news director for WSJS radio in Winston-Salem, N.C.