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Inside Politics

Return of the 'compassionate conservative'

Focus turns to domestic issues on convention's second day

Delegates to the Republican National Convention turn on Tuesday to the theme "People of Compassion."
Watch for Carlos Watson's analysis on CNN during the RNC. He's on the air in the 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon hours ET, and in the 8 p.m. hour, as well.
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CNN's Carlos Watson previews President Bush's coming speech.
Day Two: Tuesday

Theme: 'People of Compassion'

7 to 11:15 p.m. ET: Speakers include Elizabeth Dole, George P. Bush (son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush), Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush

Continuing from Monday: The roll call of the states
Carlos Watson

NEW YORK (CNN) -- While Republicans on Monday tried to reinforce a strength by stressing national security, on Tuesday they will try to tackle a weakness on the domestic front.

In the 2000 campaign, President Bush portrayed himself as a "compassionate conservative" -- an open, more inclusive Republican -- in a bid to win over middle-of-the-road voters. This year, he'll try once again to appeal to moderate, swing voters.

But since the controversial Florida recount put him in office, critics charge Bush has been anything but open, inclusive or compassionate. They say he's taken a rigidly conservative line on a variety of issues, including taxes, affirmative action, Iraq and the Patriot Act.

They also point to some economic news, such as last week's Census Bureau report that said the number of Americans living in poverty jumped to 35.8 million last year (up 1.3 million) while those without health insurance rose to 45 million (from 43.6 million).

Job growth was weaker than expected in July, with only 32,000 new net jobs, even as the unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent.

Moreover, polls show most voters rate Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry higher on every major domestic issue.

To overcome a poll deficit on key domestic issues and win over crucial undecided moderate voters, the Republican National Convention will begin the effort to reassert the compassionate conservative brand Tuesday night. (Special report: America Votes 2004, the Republican convention)

To do so, the GOP will use different messages, messengers and tone from that employed Monday.

Laura Bush, the first lady and a former teacher, likely will touch on education.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant, is likely to talk about the American dream and an entrepreneurial economy.

And Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will likely highlight diversity, including the president's impressive record in building a diverse Cabinet.

Republicans are unlikely to persuade voters directly Tuesday, but the night's events are certainly important as the party strives to re-establish an identity appealing to moderate voters.

They can also make progress on two of the convention's three key goals: reframing the president's record on the economy and beginning to highlight elements of an active second Bush term.

But all of it is still about laying the foundation for Bush to make the sale himself on Thursday.

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