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  • America Votes

    Election news from across the Knight Ridder network and the Web

    Sunday, September 26, 2004

    Debate prep in Packer country 

    MADISON, Wis. — John Kerry just arrived here in Green Bay Packer country to prepare for the political clash of the week – Thursday’s debate with George Bush over foreign policy that could be as head-knocking and pad-slapping as anything else on television that night.

    Kerry is steeling himself accordingly, studying Bush's 2000 debate game plan and running drills against an offense patterned after the president's.

    "I think what everybody learned in 2000 was that the Bush people went with a theory for that debate ... They pushed Gore as an exaggerator," Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter told reporters aboard his campaign plane Sunday. "They stuck with that theory. They won the spin war coming out of that debate."

    This time, Bush will portray Kerry as a "flip flopper." Count on the Kerry camp to practice using the words "wrong choices" in close proximity to "George Bush." Kerry has already read a lengthy Atlantic Monthly article on George Bush and the war in Iraq.

    Kerry's training team includes John Sasso, an old Massachusetts political hand who joined the team recently to be Kerry's traveling confidant. Bob Shrum, a speechwriter and senior adviser, is here, too. Jonathan Winer, who worked as an investigator for Kerry back in his 1990 Senate probe of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, is offering national security advice. Washington lawyer Greg Craig, former White House counsel who defended Clinton against impeachment charges and lawyer for Elian Gonzalez' father, is playing Bush in mock debates.

    Kerry's training camp is a resort in Spring Green, a town west of Madison known as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and the largest carousel in the world. Political lesson: What goes around comes around?

    Kerry won't be closeted in debate training at all times. Aides plan to give him daily photo-ops. Wisconsin is, after all, a battleground state where Bush appears to be leading.

    And, of course, there is always homage to pay the Green Bay Packers, especially after Kerry last month foolishly mispronounced the name of hallowed Lambeau Field as Lambert Field. On his way to Spring Green, Kerry and his motorcade stopped at a pub in Mt. Horeb to watch the first quarter of the Packers-Indianapolis Colts game. The Colts were leading 7-0 when he arrived. The game was tied 14-14 when he left. The Colts went on to win.

    posted by Jim Kuhnhenn at 6:13 PM

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