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Watch Perot running mate in VP debate

Tonight will be the first and only debate among the three candidates for vice president, and the results could be surprising.

Independent candidate Ross Perot stole the show Sunday night with his sharp one-liners during the first presidential debate, reviving his popularity with thousands of voters. His running mate, James Stockdale, will be the man to watch tonight in Atlanta.

Stockdale, 68, a former Navy vice admiral and a Medal of Honor winner, is sometimes described as a warrior-philosopher. He spent nearly eight years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam after his plane was shot down in 1965. He and his wife wrote a book about their experiences and still praise Perot for drawing attention to the plight of POWs.

Stockdale is currently working on a book about Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher and teacher.

Stockdale credits one of Epictetus' works, a manual titled The Enchiridion, with saving his life. By summer 1965, that obscure book had become a bedside companion to then-Navy Cmdr. Stockdale, a carrier pilot who memorized much of it during combat tours.

He said it enabled him to survive both torture as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and his death-defying gambit in 1969, when he slit his wrists to avoid betraying his comrades and country.

"I knew that life is not fair," he wrote after 7{ years in captivity. "I knew that for centuries there had existed a working philosophy based on the assumption that the world is a buzz saw and that this philosophy was specifically geared to deal with a man's inherent inhumanity to man."

As for the two other vice-presidential debaters, it's a cliche that Democrat Al Gore is smart and articulate, and Vice President Dan Quayle isn't. But the men's performances may be remarkably equal.

Gore was busily trying to lower expectations Monday. He spent the day poring over a briefing report on a friend's 178-acre farm in Lebanon, Tenn., 45 miles northeast of Nashville.

"I've been out in Smith County in a barn out here, and we have set up a little practice place there with three podiums and with the chickens and cows and mules _ and you know there are a lot of flies in a barn," Gore said, hoping to paint himself as the underdog.

But Clinton, not Gore, will be Quayle's target in the debate, administration officials said.

Quayle has changed in the four years since America saw him yipping in joy after being chosen as Bush's running mate. He is more serious _ his temples are even gray _ and he is angling to run for president himself in 1996. He has also withstood tremendous ridicule from the press and public.

"Experience has been a great teacher," Quayle told the New York Times. "You don't have to say, "Well, gee, you've got this debate coming up, how do you prepare for it?' You know how."

The first presidential debate was a hit on television. About 60 percent of the homes in America where the TV was on Sunday night were tuned to the debate.

Overnight polls showed Perot won the debate hands down and drew more voters away from Bush than Clinton, who maintained a strong lead. A network poll showed the race with Clinton 46, Bush 31 and Perot 14, up from 6 percent in a pre-debate poll.

Perot's offices said they had more calls Monday than anytime since Perot re-entered the race Oct. 1.

"In a nutshell, most of the calls are wildly enthusiastic about Ross Perot," said Bob Wolfson at Dallas headquarters. "It has been much more like it was last spring when he was so popular with everybody."

Tampa Bay Perot offices saw the same reaction, saying they logged far more calls than usual and signed up many new volunteers who said they were won over by Perot's humor and plain-talk about economic problems.

Perot left the debate Sunday night saying he couldn't analyze his own performance.

"I didn't get to see myself," he said. "So I'll read in the paper tomorrow if I was tired or if I sweated or if my tie was at an angle or all those things that are really important."

Bush and Clinton spent Monday back on the campaign trail, pressing their debate themes and trying to shore up their weaknesses.

Clinton, who avoided service in the Vietnam War, was endorsed by 20 retired military officials, including Army Lt. Gen. Calvin A.

H. Waller, a Vietnam veteran and second-highest ranking officer in Desert Storm; Vice Adm. Richard Truly, a former head of NASA; and Adm. Stansfield Turner, former head of the CIA.

Their statement noted that "in our nation's history, many civilian leaders did not serve in uniform," and mentioned former Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Bush aides said the president's top economic advisers will be replaced if he is re-elected. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, Budget Director Richard Darman and chief White House economist Michael Boskin have been blamed, especially by Republicans, for failing to persuade Bush to act quickly or forcefully enough to address the nation's recession.

Bush had already said during the debate that he would ask former Secretary of State James Baker to take charge of economic policy _ a sort of domestic czar _ in a second term.

Robert Teeter, Bush's campaign chairman, acknowledged that Bush's persistent trailing in the polls by 10 points or more represents a major hurdle that will be difficult to jump.

"What we've got to do in the next debates is really get a focus on the economic plan," Teeter said. "We've got to sharpen that up."

And Clinton's aides said the Arkansas governor will try to loosen up in the next debate.

_ Information from Political Editor Ellen Debenport, staff writer Jennifer Orsi and the Associated Press, the Baltimore Sun and Reuters was used in this report.

The debate

schedule

The 90-minute debates will be aired live on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, Fox and C-Span.

Today, 7 p.m.: Vice presidential debate in Atlanta, moderated by Hal Bruno of ABC.

Thursday, 9 p.m.: Presidential debate in Richmond, Va., moderated by Carole Simpson of ABC with questions from the audience.

Oct. 19, 7 p.m.: Presidential debate in East Lansing, Mich.

Up next:Q&A

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