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Inside Politics

GOP convention aims at moderates

Alcivar: 'The program represents the wide scope of the party'

By Thom Patterson
CNN

THE MORNING GRIND
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CNN's Judy Woodruff on the GOP, conservatives and moderates.

CNN's Bill Schneider on the political battle lines in New York.

Sights and sounds as the RNC nears its opening.
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Day One: Monday

Theme: 'A Nation of Courage'

10 a.m. ET: Call to order, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie; business session to 2:30 p.m.

7:45 p.m to 11:15 p.m. ET: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg welcomes delegates. Speakers include Ron Silver, Lindsey Graham, Bernard Kerik, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Monday's kickoff of the 2004 Republican National Convention will unleash a four-day multimedia barrage of words, images and music and ceremonies aimed at convincing moderates and independents that George W. Bush deserves a second term in the White House.

The right-wing voices of past GOP conventions, such as Ralph Reed, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, will be replaced this year mostly with moderate Republicans such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and even a moderate Democrat -- Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia.

"The program represents the wide scope of the party," said convention spokesman Leonardo Alcivar.

"So I think you're going to see supporters of the president that represent all sides of the Republican Party."

After most of the moderate speakers were announced, conservative GOP speakers were added to the schedule, including Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sam Brownback of Kansas.

According to CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield, spending more time on moderates just makes good sense.

"The GOP doesn't need to convince the right to vote for Bush, and, with the exception of some grousing that led to Santorum and Brownback to be added to the speaker list, they won't be showing the right-wing side of the party," Greenfield said.

The convention will portray Bush as a strong defender of the nation during a global war on terrorism and a U.S.-led war in Iraq, against a backdrop of themes touting compassion, courage, hope and opportunity.

Opportunity, according Greenfield, is something this week's events might provide for the party itself.

"They need to outline a second-term agenda," said Greenfield. "A recent memo by the Democratic advocacy group Democracy Corps said the Democratic convention missed an opportunity to be more detailed about its plans under a Kerry administration. The Republicans have an opportunity here to say, "'If we get a second term, here's what's going to happen.'"

Madison Square Garden is hosting the gathering, the first-ever Republican Party convention to be held in New York. (Special report: America Votes 2004, the Republican convention)

Bush has pleased conservative backers by supporting a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, restricting stem-cell research and signing a bill banning a rarely used late-term abortion technique. Convention organizers have chosen, however, to assemble a list of speakers who are mostly moderate in their political views.

Polls show voters are deeply divided between Bush and his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The vote is expected to be so close on November 2 that strategists are reaching out to key independents and moderates who might be convinced to cross party lines. More moderate and independent ballots could put Bush over the top in important states where the vote is expected to be close.

Courage of a Nation

Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona will both be highlighted speakers on opening night, expanding on Monday's theme: "A Nation of Courage."

Giuliani, whose actions after the September 11, 2001, attacks made him a heroic figure among both Democrats and Republicans, will recount that day's horrible events, including individual acts of bravery.

McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and former POW, will then speak about bravery in the U.S. military following the attacks and President Bush's role in America's war on terrorism.

Monday night's events also will include a special tribute to the victims of September 11.

Tuesday's theme, "Compassion of the American People," will be dominated by two speakers -- first lady Laura Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger, who vaulted into the world of politics during 2003's California recall race.

The Austrian-born former body builder and movie star will touch on his personal success story, often referred to as the quintessential American dream. The night's events will kickoff with a performance by country music solo artist Sara Evans, whose hit single "Suds in the Bucket" has cracked Billboard's Country Top Ten.

Other entertainers scheduled to perform during the convention include country music's The Gatlin Brothers, Lee Ann Womack and Brooks and Dunn. Also set to perform is Daniel Rodriguez, who gained fame as a New York police officer who sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at ceremonies and memorials in the aftermath of September 11.

Tony-award winning actor Ron Silver, who played a political analyst and polling expert on the NBC television series "The West Wing" is also expected to be on hand.

Miller's party poke

Miller, signaling bitter disappointment with his own Democratic party, has accepted a GOP invitation to deliver the convention's prestigious keynote address on Wednesday, when the theme is Land of Opportunity.

Miller may be the first major party member to deliver keynote addresses at both Democratic and Republican conventions. He was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 1992, also in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The move makes a powerful statement about the state of the Democratic Party, according to convention spokesman Alcivar.

"It speaks to the fact that today's Democratic Party is so out of the mainstream, it has moved so far left, that a senator who just 12 years ago supported a then-centrist Democrat -- Bill Clinton -- is unable to support today's Democratic nominee," Alcivar said. "It also speaks to the strength of the president."

Miller, a former governor of the GOP stronghold state of Georgia, is expected to tout the Bush economic agenda, including business and taxation policy.

His speech amounts to a painful poke in the eye for Democrats, according to Greenfield. "Oh, it's a real poke," Greenfield said. "It's a way of embodying the idea that Republicans have done better than the Democrats, because even prominent members of their own party are supporting the other side."

Miller's speech will be followed Wednesday by a darling of right-wing conservatives, Vice President Dick Cheney, who is expected to detail Bush's "vision for spreading freedom around the world to ensure our safety at home," according to the convention Web site.

Cheney will nominate Bush

Following recent convention tradition, Cheney will then officially nominate Bush on Wednesday as the GOP presidential choice, and the following evening, Bush will accept his party's nomination.

The music, lights, cameras, balloons, cheers, funny hats and all the other convention pomp and ceremony reach a pinnacle Thursday night when Bush delivers his acceptance speech.

Bush will be introduced by New York Gov. George Pataki.

The theme of Bush's speech and the theme of the night, "Building a Safer World and a More Hopeful America," is designed to accent Bush's role as commander in chief, overseeing two U.S. wars in three years, while leading the reorganization of several national security agencies under the umbrella Department of Homeland Security.

After almost 16 hours of convention events this week -- virtually all during prime-time television viewing hours -- the party's quadrennial nomination celebration will come to an end. What voters take away from it will be unique to each voter, according to Greenfield.

"The party gets to say what the party gets to say, and its up to voters to say,' Is this an accurate picture of what this party stands for?' "


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