CommunityPam's House Blend

Edwards and Cheney are prepping for Tuesday’s debate. I’m disappointed with the format, which has them sitting at a table instead of at the podium (or a town hall, which Edwards wanted. The aesthetics favor Cheney, but Edwards needs to engage him directly and not hold back. He’s not the affable Cheney of 2000 when he did the table debate with Lieberman. He’s got a huge Halliburton ball and chain on him this time and he needs to be held accountable (for Halliburton, the Iraq war, wresting control of power on 9/11, the list goes on and on).

Cheney, far more controversial today than he was in 2000, must maintain his air of quiet command and not be goaded into grumpiness or saying something he might regret, analysts said.

“Cheney has this gravitas thing he lays on you,” Democratic strategist Bill Carrick said. “It has to do with his demeanor, his gruffness combined with his r?Šsum?Š. Edwards has to break through that.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., failed to do that in his 2000 debate against Cheney. Lieberman’s gentle collegiality was largely ineffective.

Edwards will take a much harder-hitting approach, said a senior official with the Kerry-Edwards campaign. Edwards will focus on how President Bush and Cheney “managed to lose more jobs, do nothing about health care and messed up Iraq,” the official said.

Edwards has been preparing for the debate in Washington, D.C., and on the campaign trail. His sessions generally last a few hours, and prominent Washington lawyer Bob Barnett plays Cheney. (“We put him in a Darth Vader costume,” one senior Kerry-Edwards staff member cracked.)

Edwards will hole up through tomorrow in a “debate camp” in Chautauqua, N.Y., dashing out occasionally for nearby campaign events.

Cheney will prepare in Wyoming through today. He probably will relax tomorrow and may go fishing, then fly to Cleveland on Tuesday morning, an aide said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding