AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- George W. Bush jokes that the problem with engaging in mock debates with Sen. Judd Gregg is that often "he wins."
The New Hampshire Republican has been playing the role of Democrat Al Gore in practice sessions with the Texas governor. And while Bush likes to give the impression that he isn't putting much time or energy into such rehearsals, the preparation has been underway for months.
One sparring session between Bush and Gregg -- at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, during the Democratic convention last month -- found its way to the Gore campaign. Gore's camp turned the tape over to the FBI, which is investigating.
With the first debate a week away on Oct. 3, Bush was heading to Austin on Wednesday for a practice session. And at least one full 90-minute session with a moderator and formal trappings is planned for the weekend.
There's a danger in rehearsing too much, Bush says. "Either you're ready or you're not ready," he says. He thinks he is.
Some Republicans privately have voiced concern that Bush is not taking debate preparation seriously enough, suggesting he chafes at practice sessions and tries to get out of them when he can.
Still, the Texas governor has been poring over briefing books given him by staff.
Bush says he's trying to familiarize himself with the specifics of Gore's various proposals and also is refreshing himself with details of his own proposals, especially those he doesn't refer to often on the campaign trail.
The lean, reticent Gregg looks nothing like Gore. But, according to Bush campaign officials, he has an uncanny ability to sound like him.
"I told him, 'You're good,"' said Bush communications director Karen Hughes, who has been with him during all debate rehearsals.
Gregg "has managed to capture the condescending air that Gore uses in debates," said Hughes, never missing an opportunity to get in a dig at the vice president.
Bush at first balked at the schedule for three debates outlined by a bipartisan commission that has overseen presidential debates since 1988.
He agreed initially to only one, challenging Gore to meet him in less formal settings for the other two -- in particular, joint appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and on CNN's "Larry King Live."
Gore wouldn't take the bait, and Bush eventually agreed to the schedule set forth by the commission.
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