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The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Detroit
"The trend for now is towards George Bush"
 real 56k

Charles Krauthammer, Columnist
"Unfortunately we're in a media age and those that can handle themselves in the media will succeed"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Gore claims 'Goldilocks victory'
Al Gore and George W Bush debate
Gore on a charge - agressive style in Missouri
Both main presidential candidates declared themselves pleased with their night's work as they hit the campaign trail after their third, and last, televised debate on Wednesday night.

Snap polls (%) Bush Gore
44 - 46 CNN
40 - 45 CBS
41 - 41 ABC
Speaking on ABC television's Good Morning America programme, Al Gore compared his performances across the series of debates with the children's story in which Goldilocks is disappointed by two bowls of porridge before finding the third to her taste.

"The first was too hot, the second was too cool, the third was just right," he said.

Mr Gore is widely believed to have been too dismissive of George W Bush in their first debate and too contrite in the second.

Bush in final debate
Bush: Quiet and measured
But snap polls taken immediately after their final head-to-head in St Louis, Missouri showed voters thought the vice president's return to an aggressive style of debating had just shaded the contest.

George W Bush said he felt he had done a "good job", and said his opponent's style did not stand him well.

"Attacking somebody all the time prevents him from talking about what he intends to do," he said, also on Good Morning America.

Fighting talk

The two candidates fielded questions from a panel of undecided voters - the floating voters could well decide the outcome of what is set to be a very close ballot.

Gore
Gore: Experienced and confident
Mr Gore was quick to come out fighting - the pressure on him to perform after failing to come out ahead in his first two encounters with Mr Bush.

The Democrat portrayed himself as a fighter for ordinary people, and his rival as a defender of the privileged.

The centrepiece of Mr Bush's campaign is a $1.3 trillion tax cut, while Mr Gore has offered significant expansion of social spending yet pledged to pay down the national debt by 2012.

In response, the Texas governor said his rival was a "big spender".

"If this were a spending contest I'd come in second," Mr Bush said proudly.

America's newspapers all agreed that Mr Gore had come out fighting on Wednesday.

'Shooting daggers'

The New York Times focused on the candidates' body language, saying its message was unmistakable: "Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore do not like each other one bit."

"Mr Gore ... at one point literally claimed Mr Bush's territory as his own, shooting daggers at the Texas governor."

"Gore decided to be Gore," said USA Today, which according to the newspaper means "being a little more aggressive than what might be considered conversational".

But most commentators pointed out that Mr Bush had proved capable of withstanding the Gore onslaught.

The Washington Post noted the Texan governor's tactic of characterising himself as a uniter not a fighter.

"Bush repeatedly challenged Gore's aggressive posture, not with sharp rebuttals but with a call for changing the tone of politics," the paper said.

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See also:

18 Oct 00 | Americas
Gore goes on the warpath
18 Oct 00 | Americas
Democrats' Missouri dilemma
17 Oct 00 | Americas
Bush evokes Reagan era
10 Oct 00 | Americas
White lies may cost Gore
05 Sep 00 | Election news
Why Bushisms matter
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