Republican National Convention
Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Republicans unite for cause

Staying positive key to winning

        PHILADELPHIA — The 2000 Republican Convention was about three hours old and it was abundantly clear that everybody — from George W. Bush to party officials to delegates — was, as they say in campaigns, “on message.”

        And what's that message? Just listen to the catch phrases and words the Republicans are throwing around here.

        Unity. Compassion. Positive. Upbeat.

        Far different from the words that have often been associated with the party over the last few years.

        Harsh. Mean. Strident. Intolerant. Nasty. Fractured. Newt.

        The Grand Old Party did great things in the Republican Revolution of 1994, winning both chambers of Congress in mandate fashion. Then, they fell down on the job, not so much as legislators but as politicians. And if you're not good at the latter you can just about forget becoming the former.

        By being handed the blame for the shutdown of the federal government, for squabbling internally over issues such as abortion, by attacking popular programs such as Head Start and school lunches, and by obsessing over Bill Clinton's love life, the Republicans pretty much earned the reputation as a group of nasty naysayers.

        Some of the party's top and former leaders, among them Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott and former House member Bob Livingston of Louisiana, said as much to reporters Monday afternoon.

        Mr. Livingston used the words “harsh” and “strident”.

        And this is the real mission of this convention: to convince the American voters that, as Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson put it during his opening remarks Monday, this is not the old Republican Party.

        Talk to a delegate or an alternate and they gush enthusiasm. Grab a bite or a drink with one and you'll hear some heavy Clinton bashing, but don't expect those jabs to be thrown publicly.

        “We're going to be positive because we have to be,” said one Kentucky delegate.

        “The Republicans came across as mean in the last few elections, and that gave us Bill Clinton,” he said. “But (Mr.) Bush is different. He excites people, he doesn't scare them. That's what the party needs.”

        All that said, this is going to turn into one nasty race. Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore are going to tear into one another like a hungry delegate gobbling down a Philly cheese-steak sandwich.

        “We need to focus on what is good about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and the Republican Party,” said delegate Barb Haas of Fort Thomas, chairwoman of the Campbell County Republican Party.

        “That's what is going to win this race. Not all the negativity we've seen in the past.”

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for the Enquirer.

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Tonight's convention schedule
Prime time coverage
PULFER: No time for star gazing
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