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Republicans Await Bush Acceptance Speech - 2004-09-02

George Bush goes before his party and the nation Thursday to formally accept the Republican nomination for a second term as president. His remarks, like the acceptance speech Democrat John Kerry delivered a month ago in Boston, will be closely watched. It will be a very different kind of address.

When John Kerry spoke to the Democratic convention, he had a specific objective in mind. "I am John Kerry and I am reporting for duty!"

His goal was to introduce himself to the American public, after months of focusing primarily on winning the support of the party faithful. In 2000, then Texas-Governor George W. Bush had a similar aim when he addressed the Republican nominating convention in Philadelphia.

"I've been where the buck stops in business and in government. I've been a chief executive who sets an agenda, sets big goals, and rallies people to believe and achieve them," he said.

This time, Mr. Bush will be speaking as an incumbent president. His task is not so much to introduce himself, but to recap his first term in office and make the case for a second.

Ohio Senator Mike DeWine will have a front row center seat for the big event. He says the American people already know George Bush. "They know him. They know him very well. I think during an acceptance speech people want to hear "what are you going to do for me next?. Where are you going to take this country in the next four years," he said.

He predicts Mr. Bush will deliver an address that is, in essence a hybrid: part campaign speech, part report to the nation. He will point to his accomplishments in office and outline his plans for the future.

California delegate Linda Dealy says the stakes may not be quite as high as they were for John Kerry, but the president's acceptance speech is still crucial.

"What this is, is the beginning salvo of the real campaign season and people will be tuning in who normally don't pay attention to news cycles or who don't care about polls," he said. "But they will tune in to see what his goals are for the next four years and this is the beginning of the real genuine campaign cycle."

A convention acceptance speech is one of the few times during an election cycle that a presidential candidate can get uninterrupted time on the major broadcast networks in the United States. The other opportunities usually come during nationally televised debates.

John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute says the president is likely to put forward several new proposals in his speech as a way of reminding the American people what he has done in office and can do if given four more years.

"Bush is reminding people of what they know, reminding them that he was there after 9/11 and even if there are ups and downs in the war on terror, he is experienced," he said. "But also he is telling them that he has been relatively active on domestic policy and he used his popularity to go to Congress and get things done."

The response in the convention hall will no doubt be enthusiastic, with party activists hoping to take that energy home for use in the two months of campaigning ahead. Though George Bush is not known for his rhetorical skills, the delegates say they expect to hear a fantastic speech. As one local campaign chair put it: he will communicate like Ronald Reagan and be as principled as another war president, Abraham Lincoln.