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Republicans Highlight Themes of Strength, Unity Ahead of Party Convention  - 2004-08-29


Republican leaders gathering in New York for the convention that will formally endorse President Bush's bid for a second term in office, say potential voters will see a unified party that embraces a broad range of views and opinions. Speakers at the convention will emphasize President Bush's record over the past four years.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says the highlight of the four-day Republican National Convention will come Thursday, when President Bush addresses delegates in a nationally-televised speech. Mr. Frist spoke on the US television program Fox News Sunday.

"I predict he [President Bush] will lay out a future, a vision, an agenda that is based on the past four years of performance: strong on the war on terror, strong on the economy, a man of action delivering on health care [issues] and education," he said. "Thematically, it will be that we are secure, safer now, and more hopeful [about] tomorrow."

That message will be repeated again and again long before Mr. Bush enters Madison Square Garden, where the convention is being held.

But many of the featured speakers differ with President Bush on key social issues, such as abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control and stem cell research. Among them are California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York state Governor George Pataki.

Mr. Giuliani, who speaks Monday at the convention, says Republicans can and should demonstrate their party's inclusiveness, something that has worked well for other presidential campaigns in the past. The former mayor spoke on NBC's Meet the Press.

"We do want to demonstrate that we are a party of broad opinion," he said. "Ronald Reagan got elected president by getting the votes of independents and Democrats. And Bill Clinton got elected president by getting the votes of a lot of independents and Republicans. We want to do the same thing."

Democrats say they are bracing for four days of heavy criticism of their presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Governor Pataki, who will introduce President Bush at the convention Thursday, said Republicans are eager to define Mr. Kerry as they view him.

"This is a race between two people: President Bush and Senator Kerry. And the American people know President Bush. They have seen him for four years. The American people do not have quite the same exposure to Senator Kerry," he added.

However, New York Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton says Republicans are trying to divert attention from serious problems that have grown worse under President Bush.

"They do not want to talk about the economy or their fiscal policies that have driven us back into debt and deficit," said Ms. Clinton. "They do not want to talk about people losing their health insurance - the latest numbers 5.2 million - or the four million Americans who have fallen back into poverty."

Sunday saw massive demonstrations against President Bush and the Republican National Convention in New York. Senator Clinton says peaceful protests are fine, but a more effective tactic is for people to express their feelings at the ballot box in November.

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