Republican Conventions - Present and Past

The 39th Republican Nominating Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, brings together more than 2,000 delegates and almost as many alternates. They were elected by voters in their states and territories to nominate the party’s presumptive presidential candidate, Senator John McCain.  Leonard Williams teaches political science at Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, and heads the Department of History and Political Science. In this second part of a five-part series, he told Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Cole Mallard that one unique element this year is that John McCain, like Barack Obama, is not an incumbent and therefore is not the undisputed party leader.

Williams says for one thing, McCain has to pull together support from the Christian conservative movement, which he says has dominated the party for some time. He says conservatives in general still have their doubts about choosing John McCain as the party’s candidate because of differences on a variety of issues that make them feel he’s not “as authentic a conservative as they would like.”

Walking a fine line

Williams says it would be a double-edged sword for McCain to align himself closely with President George W. Bush. Williams says McCain does need to support Republican Party values at the convention, but he must distance himself somewhat from those values when it comes to dealing with the broader public. The political specialist says, “It’s a fine line that he’ll have to walk between embracing the president and yet putting enough distance between himself and the president to show that he’s a different kind of Republican.”

Williams says McCain’s military record and experience will benefit him at the convention but he can’t rely solely on the issue of national security to define himself: he has to show he can lead on other issues important to voters this year, such as the economy. Williams says these issues will be evident in the speeches at the convention, including McCain’s acceptance speech.

Williams says it’s hard to know if any one issue will dominate but each one gives the candidate the chance to express himself in a way that highlights his character and approach to situations and crises.



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