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Cheney expected to criticize Edwards as trial lawyer while taking heat for Halliburton ties
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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney likely will portray his debate opponent Tuesday night as a smooth-talking trial lawyer without much government experience while Sen. John Edwards is expected to repeat the H-word�Halliburton�and question whether voters still want Cheney-style leadership.

The debate at Case Western Reserve University, the only face-to-face meeting Cheney and Edwards will have before the election, also is a fight for campaign momentum. With Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry receiving a boost from his debate last week with President Bush, Republicans are hoping Cheney will show up his youthful counterpart and stifle the grousing about Bush�s scowling performance.

�They�ll probably have a very good stylistic presentation tonight,� Cheney adviser Mary Matalin told CNN on Tuesday, �but as was the case in Miami with the president, the vice president will have the stronger arguments and he will talk about the record, which they have refused to do so far, and he will lay out the second-term agenda, which they have failed to do so far.�

Edwards will respond to criticism of his 20-year career as a trial lawyer by pointing out that he represented average people in their fight against powerful interests, Kerry senior adviser Joe Lockhart said.

�The American public needs an advocate like that,� Lockhart told CNN, �as opposed to somebody who has a vested special interest in Washington, ran Halliburton, now probably one of the most shameful companies in America, just before he came to the White House ... and is still making money off of Halliburton.�

Keying off of the North Carolina senator�s past, the Bush campaign was rolling out two television ads assailing �out-of-control personal injury trial lawyers.� The ads blame them for �frivolous lawsuits� that have caused hospitals to close maternity wards, obstetricians and gynecologists to leave the profession, and women to wait three months for mammograms.

�John Kerry and the liberals in Congress stand with those trial lawyers,� says one ad, which will run on national cable networks and in select local media markets.

Lockhart said the idea that the pool of doctors is diminishing is ďż˝one of the biggest urban myths in the country right now ...  John Edwards will not be shy about talking about taking on people who donďż˝t have the advantage, who arenďż˝t powerful, who are taking on powerful interests. Thatďż˝s what heďż˝s done his whole life.ďż˝

Before running for the Senate, Edwards was a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury cases in which juries granted his clients multimillion-dollar awards. Cheney often blames trial lawyers for the rising costs of health care.

Cheney was chief executive at Halliburton, a major government contractor in Iraq, before joining the GOP ticket in 2000. Edwards has used Cheney�s past to paint the White House as cozy with big business.

Some polls put Bush with a slight lead over Kerry, while others show the race dead even.

Because of the stakes, both campaigns expect high viewership, which would be unusual for a vice presidential debate. In 2000, 46.5 million people watched the first presidential debate between Bush and Al Gore, before viewership plummeted to 28.5 million for the vice presidential encounter between Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman.

The debate was to cover both domestic and foreign policy, although advisers to both campaigns conceded that Iraq likely would to dominate the confrontation.

Cheney was expected to echo his refrain from the campaign trail that Kerry is unfit to lead the war against terror because his positions on national security and foreign policy shift �with the wind.� In his first one-on-one debate, Edwards was to make the case that Bush misled the public about the war on terror and got the nation into �a mess� in Iraq with no plan for peace.

The debate was being staged in Ohio, considered one of the top prizes in this election. With 20 electoral votes, the state went to Bush by 3.6 percentage points in 2000.

Seeking to project an air of confidence, Edwards arrived in Cleveland a day early and on Tuesday was holding a town hall style meeting with voters in nearby Parma before the debate. He had scheduled a post-debate rally as well.

Cheney was flying to Cleveland on Tuesday from his home in Jackson, Wyo., and also was attending a post-debate rally.


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