Governor George W. Bush Discusses the First Presidential Debate on the TODAY Show
(October 4, 2000)

TOM BROKAW reporting: Governor, this is a baseball game. Give me the box score at the end of the debate.

Governor GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I felt I did well, but I'm not the scorer. It's the people who get to make the decision. I was pleased to have a chance to speak directly to the American people. One of the things that happens when you run for president, the filter kind of sometimes interprets what I have to say. And this was a chance. The vice president and I both had a chance to speak about our hopes and dreams and some pol—a lot of policy it seemed like. And we had a pretty good—a pretty good session. We sparred.

BROKAW: A lot of pressure, 90 minutes, national television audience, the presidency is at stake. At the end of 90 minutes, surely you must have thought to yourself, 'I'd like to go back over that question again.'

Gov. BUSH: Not really. I haven't had a chance to think about that. At the end of 90 minutes, I wasn't sure. You know, you don't know how you look, you don't know how people react. The first person I saw was my wife. She said, 'Fantastic.' The next person I saw was Governor Bush, who's one of—who's a tough critic, my little brother, and he said, 'Man, you did great.' And I started feeling like I did well. You know, I'm sure that when I think back and look back at the tapes, maybe I'd be able to refine an answer here or there. But the key thing is to speak philosophy, and—and I really worry about how people judge the answer, but just speak your mind.

BROKAW: Before the debate, a lot of your advisers kept saying, 'Look, the vice president is very aggressive debater.' Do you think that he was fair as a debater to you?

Gov. BUSH: I thought it was fine. I mean, I thought—you know, I didn't agree with some of the things he said, obviously. And he was trying to paint me as a, you know, big oil and big rich and all that kind of stuff, the class warfare, but I was expecting that. And, you know, the people are going to listen to what we both have to say. And they're going to filter it out. And they're going to say who they want.

BROKAW: Based on the two focus groups that we had right after the debate, it didn't move them one way or another. You did fine, so did the vice president. But it makes it very clear that this race is a long way for over—from over.

Gov. BUSH: Yeah.

BROKAW: And the undecideds are the people who are going to make the decision here.

Gov. BUSH: I think so, yeah. First of all, I'm pleased it's a close race. Had you told me a year ago that I would be maybe up in some of the polls against a sitting vice president who had a pretty good economy behind him, that I'd like my chances with five weeks to go. I think—I think that undecideds will come my way eventually.

BROKAW: A lot of numbers were thrown around during the course of the debate.

Gov. BUSH: It seemed like it.

BROKAW: Almost everyone who is an authority in this area says that both you and the vice president are way too optimistic when we talk about this $ 25 trillion surplus, that there's a very good possibility that we'll never get to that number.

Gov. BUSH: Well, you know, my attitude is that the job of the president is to create an environment that encourages growth. And that's why I want to share some of the surplus, one quarter of the surplus, with people who pay the bills. I come from the school of thought that if you reduce marginal rates on taxpayers, it serves as a fuel, as a catalyst for ec—to continue economic growth. And you couple that with a strong stance on free trade and tort reform and less regulation on enterprise. I think those are the ingredients to make sure the expansion continues.

BROKAW: It's well known that before he began political debating that Al Gore's mother said to him, 'Smile, relax and attack.'

Gov. BUSH: Yes.

BROKAW: Barbara Bush is a big influence on you. What did she say?

Gov. BUSH: 'Smile, relax and defend yourself.' You know, it's funny, I don't even know if she watched tonight. She was so nervous about her son. And it's amazing how the roles get reversed, Tom. I can remember when my dad was debating, I was so nervous I could barely watch. And I'm sure they felt the same way. You know, my attitude going in was, first of all, I didn't have any butterflies, interesting enough, because I know what I believe. And I just, the best I could, I just tried to convey my beliefs to the people. And I trust the people, I really do. I think when it's all said and done, they're going to make a wise judgment in this campaign. And I believe it's going to be me.

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