President Bush may skip one of the three debates that have been proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates and accepted by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Republican officials said yesterday.
The officials said Bush's negotiating team plans to resist the middle debate, which was to be Oct. 8 in a town meeting format in the crucial state of Missouri.
The Bush-Cheney campaign announced that its debate negotiation team will be led by James A. Baker III, who was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush. Baker headed the Bush campaign's Florida recount response in 2000 and is the current president's personal envoy on Iraqi debt resolution.
Baker negotiated debates in 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1992. As chief of staff to Bush's father in 1992, he took a cautious stance with the view that a sitting president has little to gain and much to lose in debates, according to accounts at the time.
Bush aides refused to discuss their opening position. Officials familiar with the issue said he plans to accept the commission's first debate, which is to focus on domestic policy, and the third one, which is to focus on foreign policy.
The audience for the second debate, to be at Washington University in St. Louis, was to be picked by the Gallup Organization. The commission said participants should be undecided voters from the St. Louis area.
A presidential adviser said campaign officials were concerned that people could pose as undecided when they actually are partisans.
You can hear Rove thinking: Actual citizens in our midst! That is so unRepublican!
And, once again, the water boy for Team Bush is there to do the family's janitorial work. James A. Baker III, the Florida recount mechanic, is back on the scene to do his lackey best in the Bush dynasty's meticulous disassembly of American democracy.