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Friday, July 4, 2008

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Edwards, Rove to face off in UB debate

By Robert J. McCarthy
Updated: 07/04/08 7:51 AM

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Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain might not burn up the campaign trail around Western New York this election year, but the University at Buffalo may have scheduled the next best thing.

GOP strategist Karl Rove and former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards will debate the issues of the presidential campaign Sept. 26 as part of the university’s Distinguished Speakers Series, The Buffalo News has learned.

As surrogates for the parties’ standard bearers, the two also could square off more than once at other locations around the nation.

“We’re working on something like that for our Distinguished Speakers Series,” said Bill Regan, UB’s director of special events. “We’re not really sure of the format yet. But we do think they are scheduled to do it at least once together before they come to UB.”

Though McCain, a Republican, is scheduled to visit Buffalo briefly for a major fundraiser July 21 in the Albright- Knox Art Gallery, most analysts already are ceding New York to the Democrats. Still, Joshua Dyck, assistant professor of political science at UB, calls such an event genuine “political theater” that could have an effect.

“It’s actually good for the Democratic process,” he said. “People vote because politics is a lot like sports. Rooting for your team probably doesn’t affect the outcome much, but people can say ‘I was there.’ ”

Dyck said such events heighten emotions and can encourage voters to become involved even if the race at the top of the ballot appears lopsided. The spin-off effect, he said, could spur interest in competitive races, such as selecting a successor to retiring Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence.

Matching up such well-known political figures as Edwards and Rove will make the event all the more interesting, he added. Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, is a household name because of his bids for the presidency in 2004 and this year’s contest, as well as his role as Sen. John F. Kerry’s vice presidential running mate in 2004.

Rove, often dubbed “Bush’s brain” from his days as President Bush’s chief political adviser, has become even more visible since leaving the White House as an analyst for Fox News and a frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Neither Rove nor Edwards was available Thursday for comment.

The 8 p. m. debate would lead off the lecture series, which has featured such major figures as former Vice President Al Gore and the late Tim Russert of NBC News.

Regan said the full schedule for the series will be announced later this month, when series subscriptions will become available. Tickets for individual programs, including the Edwards- Rove event, are expected to go on sale a short time later.

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