Republicans must make most of convention ‘bounce’

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Well, the Republicans threw a party and millions came. It didnot garner quite the TV audience party leaders had hoped, butnonetheless, it was a very successful convention that apparentlygave George W. Bush a double-digit lead — if polls are to bebelieved.

Now the game for Bush is to hold on to as much of that lead aspossible as the Democrats gather in eight days for their ownconvention in Los Angeles. Vice President Al Gore, too, will get apost-convention bounce that will very likely make this apresidential horse race all the way to the November wire.

The goal of the Republicans was to show a new kinder, gentlerparty — or “compassionate conservatism” — as is the Bush mantrathese days. The trick however will be to sell that new compassionto attract moderate Democrats and Independents withoutdisenfranchising the right wing of the party. That’s a trick thatwill not be easy to accomplish, but one that must be accomplishedif Republicans ever hope to regain the White House.

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The goal of the Democrats will be to diffuse that compassion andtry to expose the Republican ploy as simply an election-yeargimmick.

Bush’s other goal is to hang Bill Clinton around Al Gore’s neck,something both he and Dick Cheney pulled off quite successfully intheir respective speeches on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

During the past two presidential elections, Republicans went toschool on Bill Clinton’s election strategy. The GOP was caughtoff-guard eight years ago when then Arkansas governor stumpedaround the country calling himself a new type of Democrat,appealing to the moderate Republican voters scared off byconfrontational tone of the ultra right-wingers who controlled theparty.

It is now the Democrats who have been caught off-guard asRepublicans sounded very “compassionate or even Democratic” inPhiladelphia as they promoted unity, education, health care reformand inclusion — ideals championed by Democrats but now taken awayby a compassionate George W. Bush. It will be this compassion thatwill attract moderate Democrat voters, turned off by the moralcollapse of the Clinton-Gore administration, and swing the WhiteHouse back to the Republicans.

But the danger for Bush is the loss of the right wingers who getturned off by the compassion and stay home on election day out offrustration. That’s something neither they nor Bush can afford tohappen, lest “Gore more years” becomes the Democratic slogan in2004.