A Warm And Fuzzy GOP?

GOP Republican Primary Campaign 2000
AP
George W. Bush, who promised to bring civility to Washington, plans to break with tradition and lower the decibel level on partisan attacks at the Republican National Convention by focusing on his plans for the White House, aides say.

"Governor Bush is a different kind of politician. He plans to offer a different kind of convention," chief campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Hughes and other advisers said Bush, the Republican presidential contender, hoped to strike a more high-minded tone than in conventions past. Though some criticism of Democrat Al Gore and his party is expected, aides said there will be at least one concrete departure from the past: No single night will be set aside for attacks on Gore during the July 31-Aug. 3 convention in Philadelphia.

"We need all four nights to focus on his positive proposals. That will be a break with the past, where traditionally Tuesday night was set aside for criticizing the opponent. That does not mean there will not be contrasts with the vice president. We will not, however, devote a full night to criticizing vice president Gore," Hughes said.

There is no strict precedent for Tuesday night attacks, though Bush advisers noted two examples: in 1992, then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards blasted President Bush at the Democratic gathering and in 1996 Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas criticized President Clinton at the GOP convention both on the second night of festivities.

By stressing a break with those molds, the Bush campaign hopes to bolster its candidate's appeal to voters who tell pollsters they are tired of partisan sniping. Gore's slippage in polls has been attributed in part to his early attacks on Bush, who has pledged more bipartisanship if elected.

Bush advisers say they are not merely giving lip service to the proposition of a kinder, gentler tone.

"The tone will be more celebratory," than negative, Hughes said.

Advisers say the convention will break with the past in other ways, noting that video clips are being produced to highlight the work of "real people" who are living examples of Bush's "compassionate conservatism" slogan.

Special focus also will be given to several of Bush's policy proposals, from military reform to tax cuts, aides said.

And they are considering a tribute to former GOP presidents, including Ford, Bush and Reagan.

Still, advisers say no convention would be complete without highlighting the weaknesses of the Democratic rival.

"There are big differences between the two candidates," said Ed Gillespie, a GOP consultant who is helping Bush produce the convention. "I suspect you'll hear talk about what the differences are."

Early in their deliberations, but as recently as last month, aides discussed the possibility of making partisan attacks off limits during the gathering. Some aides suggested that ore's name should not be mentioned during the four-day convention.

The idea was shelved, with aides realizing they could not guarantee all GOP delegates would stick with the theme and, furthermore, deciding that it is in Bush's interest to use the high-profile gathering, in part, to define Gore.