BOSTON -- An image of President Kennedy flashed in the video clips shown just moments before George W. Bush accepted the Republican presidential nomination. Last spring, the daughter of the slain president honored Bush's father as a Kennedy Library Foundation Distinguished American.
Still, Texas Gov. Bush is balking at a planned debate in Boston because it is co-sponsored by Kennedy's presidential library, according to a Republican familiar with the Bush campaign's thinking, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some can't blame him for wanting to avoid the symbol-laden venue devoted to Kennedy, a Democratic icon and telegenic orator whose 1960 debates with Richard Nixon sealed his bid for the White House.
"You could see stories ... 'Bush debates in Kennedy's shadow,"' said William Benoit, a professor of communication at the University of Missouri and co-author of a book on the 1992 presidential debates.
"I don't know if Gore would want to debate at the George Bush (presidential) library," he said. "I think that's reasonable."
The University of Massachusetts-Boston and the Kennedy library, which share a campus, were selected by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates to host one of three general election debates.
However, as of Friday, Bush had not accepted any debate offers. His Democratic rival, Vice President Al Gore, has accepted the commission debates, and others.
Bush has made clear his preference for relatively informal debates, such as the session during the Republican primaries in which the candidates sat around a table with CNN talk-show host Larry King.
Gore's campaign chairman, William Daley, said the vice president will consider cable TV and other debate formats only after sealing a deal with the commission.
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