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Nothing to lean on, please

In the negotiations over a format for the Tuesday campaign debate in Atlanta between Vice President Dan Quayle and Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee, the Quayle team suggested the debaters be allowed to use props.

The vice president's handlers said their man might like to read, say, from a copy of the Democratic vice-presidential nominee's much-debated, bestseller on the environment, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.

That would be fine with Gore, replied the senator's handlers, as long as Gore could hold up a potato during the debate.

Props will not be permitted in the vice-presidential debate.

Debate tidbits

Among the lesser known and less important facts about today's presidential debate in St. Louis:

The number of square feet of carpet and drapes installed in the hall at Washington University where the debate will be held: 60,000.

Size of stage: 35-by-64 feet.

Number of screws in stage: 3,000.

Number of telephones for news reporters: 540.

Most extensive coverage of the debate: C-SPAN. Its coverage begins nine hours before the debate and includes a replay of 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, two hours of debate preview, live call-in from viewers after the debate and five replays of the debate through the night.

The number of campaign crew and staff members in town for the debate: President Bush, about 350; Bill Clinton, about 200; Ross Perot, three.

Bush gets youngster vote

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. _ Forget the polls showing Bill Clinton ahead in the race for the White House. A student newspaper that has picked the winner in every election since 1956 weighed in with good news for President Bush.

Bush was the choice of 55 percent of the more than 600,000 students surveyed in the Weekly Reader, drawing especially heavy support among those in kindergarten through fourth grade, said editor in chief Sandra Maccarone on Wednesday.

The results came as something of a surprise, given "adult" polls released last week showed the Democratic challenger with a strong lead.

The president reacted joyfully.

"Let Governor Clinton take his saxophone and go after the MTV vote; we'll tear him apart on Sesame Street," Bush said. He called for immediate adoption of a "28th amendment, lowering the voting age to 5-year-olds."

They said it

"This is still the greatest country in the world, if we just will steel our wills and lose our minds." _ Democratic candidate Bill Clinton, who apparently meant to say "use our minds," in an address at the University of Florida.

"Hawaii is a unique state. It is a small state. It is a state that is by itself. It is a _ it is different than the other 49 states. Well, all states are different, but it's got a particularly unique situation." _ Vice President Dan Quayle, when asked whether Hawaii's universal heath care plan might serve as a national model.

"I voted for Bush the last time and I'd hate to have to do it again. But I don't see anyone else out there I can trust, either." _ Irving Crenton, a Victorville, Calif., resident.