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Debate Plan Is Still Stuck on Formats


Negotiators for presidential contenders George W. Bush and Al Gore failed Friday to finalize formats for their October debates, but both sides said they made progress and would meet again today.

Gore wants a different format for each debate--one traditional with candidates behind lecterns, one in a more relaxed town hall setting with audience participation and one following a talk show format--proposed by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Bush wants debates to follow what his campaign described as a "free-flowing, spontaneous format."

"There are some significant areas that are still not resolved," Karen Hughes, Bush's communications director, said Friday night. But negotiators have made "subtantial progress toward an agreement."

"We've asked the lawyers to work overnight to draft some documents, and we will be back early tomorrow morning and continue to discuss the issues," said Bill Daley, Gore's campaign chairman.

The discussions centered on moderators and how the three presidential debates as well as one vice presidential debate will be run.

Neither Daley nor Donald Evans, Bush's campaign chairman, would comment on what topics remained unresolved.

The debates became a campaign issue after Texas Gov. Bush, the Republican nominee, proposed skipping events proposed by the debate commission in favor of two network television talk show appearances plus a single commission-sponsored debate.

The debates are set for Oct. 3 in Boston, Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Oct. 17 in St. Louis. A debate between vice presidential candidates Joseph I. Lieberman, Gore's running mate, and Dick Cheney, Bush's running mate, is set for Oct. 5 in Danville, Ky.

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