Oklahoma viewers discuss presidential debate format

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A kinder, gentler presidential debate seemed to please some Oklahomans who watched Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George Bush sit around the table and talk politics Wednesday night.

"I thought they both did a good job," said Tulsa resident Carol Sue Day, who considers herself mostly a Republican who's leaning toward Bush. She voted for President Clinton the last time.

The more casual exchange of Bush and Gore at a round table with moderator Jim Lehrer was welcomed after a bit of combativeness from separate podiums in the first debate, she said.

"Each giving their viewpoint, that's what we really wanted to hear, each telling what they want to do and what they are interested in," Day said.

Saibal Mitra, a physics professor at the University of Tulsa, watched the debate in one of the university's teaching halls and said he also liked the casual format better.

"It gives each of the candidates more time to explain their views with more clarity," Mitra said. Gore seems to have a better command of the issues but Bush did OK, he said.

A native of India, Mitra said after a discussion of foreign policy it wouldn't matter much which man was president because American foreign policy wouldn't change much either way.

"They are disagreeing on very minor things," Mitra said.

Tim Davis channel-surfed, stopping occasionally to catch a bit of the debate before going onto baseball and other offerings. The substance of the debate didn't matter much to him.

"I pretty much will vote for Bush because I just don't like Gore," he said.

Dan Mills felt the same about Bush.

"I didn't pay much attention to it because I know what their views are, so I didn't waste my time with it," Mills said. "If I vote, I generally vote Democrat."

State party bosses touted their parties' candidates as the clear winners and said the format brought out their candidates' strong points.

Bush seemed relaxed and clear on the issues while Gore was subdued and lacked energy, said Steve Edwards, state GOP chairman.

"I think people look at two things, I think people look at the issue and I think they look at style," Edwards said.

Bush "had a clear command of the issues and he had a relaxed style. I thought he got stronger and stronger as the debate went on," he said.

But state Rep. Mike Mass, D-Hartshorne, is the state Democratic chairman and said Gore did better in this debate and Bush "looked fidgety."

"I think it's real hard for Al Gore to come down to a level where George W. is," Mass said. "I think Al gore is so much better at debating and knows the issues better."