PHILADELPHIA -- Vice President George Bush, accompanied by 10 top White House advisers, arrived in Philadelphia Thursday for his debate with Geraldine Ferraro, declaring 'I'm ready. I'm ready.'
Bush arrived seven hours before the debate and went straight to the Civic Center stage for a look at the historic hall, then planning to jog at Franklin Field, a football stadium, and relax in his hotel suite before the encounter, said spokesman Peter Teeley.
'I think I'll do all right,' Bush told reporters on his arrival. 'I'm ready. I'm ready.'
Accompanying Bush to Philadelphia were GOP general Chairman Paul Laxalt, Campaign Director Edward Rollins, Reagan-Bush Campaign press secretary James Lake, presidential pollsters Richard Wirthlin and Robert Teeter, Reagan's speech writer Ken Khachigian and Reagan political advisers Stuart Spencer, Charles Black, Roger Stone and Lyn Nofziger.
They were prepared to claim victory on Bush's behalf after the debate, and the vice president expected to take a phone call from Reagan during a rally following the 90-minute session.
Adding spice -- and a bit of controversy -- to the pre-debate hype, Teeley confirmed that he described Ferraro in one news report as 'too bitchy.'
'What I meant by that,' he explained, 'is that ... essentially she has to come across tonight as not being screechy or scratchy. If you have to use the word 'bitchy,' that's adequate.'
He denied the word had sexist implications, saying it was synonymous with 'crabby.'
Ferraro campaign manager John Sasso said, 'I would say it shows very poor taste on the part of Mr. Bush's campaign and is an insult to every woman in this country.
'I think Mr. Bush ought to apologize for the very poor taste and poor judgment of his campaign,' Sasso said.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Teeley Thursday as saying of Ferraro: 'She's too bitchy. She's very arrogant. Humility isn't one of her strong points, and I think that comes through.' Teeley also said Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairman Tony Coelho, D-Calif., was quoted Thursday as saying Ferraro must not appear to be bitchy. 'I agree with Congressman Coelho that she's got to avoid coming across as bitchy,' Teeley said.
In Washington, Coelho's office denied the congressman used the word bitchy. An aide said Coelho was quoted as saying Ferraro 'has to be careful that she doesn't come off brassy.'
On Monday, Bush's wife Barbara referred to Ferraro as 'that $4 million -- I can't say it but it rhymes with rich.'
She said the next day she meant 'witch,' but nevertheless apologized to Ferraro who called her gracious for doing so.
Before leaving Washington, Bush had lunch and a last-minute strategy talk with President Reagan.
'I want to do well,' the vice president said. 'We've got a great record. We've got a president to talk about. We've got a lot going for us.'
When asked if Bush would win the debate, Reagan -- widely considered the loser in his first debate with Mondale -- replied: 'All I know is he's done a wonderful job for just about four years now and I expect him to continue doing that tonight.'
Bush and Reagan regularly hold private lunch meetings on Thursdays. Although aides said thet were merely sticking to routine, reporters and photographers were allowed in for the first time.
Asked his mood, Teeley said Bush 'is always optimistic.'
After the debate, Bush was to appear at a rally in a Philadelphia hotel to claim victory.
The post-debate proceedings could also provide some interest as the families of each candidate meet on stage. It would be the first face-to-face meeting between Ferraro and Mrs. Bush, who Monday referred to her husband's opponent as something that 'rhymes with rich.'
She immediately apologized, and Ferraro called her 'gracious.'