Cheney, Lieberman Spar in Casual Debate

Two days after Bush and Gore met in the first of three presidential debates, Cheney and Lieberman sat just inches from one another for their debate. But the traditional vice-presidential role as the “hatchet man” on the ticket was not in evidence — at least at the policy-heavy start of their debate. In fact, both candidates opened by vowing to be positive.

Casual Exchange

The format allowed for no opening statements, but Lieberman made one anyway, talking about his mother and thanking the crowd. Cheney also offered thanks, but dove right into a pitch for his tax cut. The notoriously dry Cheney even cracked a joke.

“I too want to avoid any personal attacks,” Cheney said to Lieberman. “I promise not to bring up your singing.”

Lieberman captured headlines last month by singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” on a late-night talk show.

The event was held at tiny Centre College in Danville, Ky. Befitting the small-town setting, the candidates were preceded by an introduction from 10-year-old local boy Michael Ward, who helped this city fight to convince the campaigns to participate in the debate back when the Bush campaign was refusing to participate.

Dead Heat Set Stage

Vice-presidential debates aren’t known for swaying elections, but an ABCNEWS snap poll taken immediately after the debate showed most gave Cheney the win. The telephone poll of 539 registered voters who watched the vice-presidential debate found 43 percent thought Cheney won, 24 percent said Lieberman won, 27 percent called it a tie. Both men and women gave the edge to Cheney.

The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 points.

The format for the debate was less formal than Tuesday’s first presidential debate, where the two candidates stood behind lecterns. Lieberman and Cheney sat at a rounded desk, faced by debate moderator Bernard Shaw of CNN.

The second Bush-Gore debate, scheduled for Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., will feature a similar talk-show format. The third and final presidential debate is set for Oct. 17 in St. Louis and will feature a town hall meeting setting. During negotiations with the Gore campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates, Bush officials lobbied for the use of less formal debate formats.

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