Gore camp tries to increase pressure on Bush to accept debates

WASHINGTON - Al Gore's campaign chairman tried Tuesday to increase pressure on rival George W. Bush to accept three nationally televised, prime-time debates, saying they would ''give the greatest number of voters the chance to hear the candidates directly.''

In a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Gore campaign chairman William Daley formally endorsed the commission's proposal for presidential forums on Oct. 3, 11 and 17, which would be available for broadcast by all TV networks.

The commission's three 90-minute debates in prime time offer ''the best opportunity for the most Americans to see the presidential candidates in the most effective forum to debate their views,'' Daley wrote.

Calls to the Bush headquarters in Austin, Texas, for comment were not immediately returned.

The Republican Bush has agreed to three presidential debates without specifying which ones. Democrat Gore, a more experienced debater who has already accepted dozens of debate invitations, has accused Bush of shopping around for a format that few people would watch, such as a cable or Sunday morning talk show.

Bush has also proposed two vice presidential debates, instead of the commission's recommended lone face-off between Democrat Joseph Lieberman and Republican Dick Cheney.

Daley endorsed that proposal and encouraged the commission to schedule an additional forum for the running mates.


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