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Republicans Get Down to Business
Philadelphia, July 31, 2000 -- Buoyant Republicans cheered retired Gen. Colin Powell Monday night as he praised Governor George W. Bush for raising education standards and addressing the concerns of minorities in Texas.
"Some call it compassionate conservatism," said Powell, echoing one of Bush's own campaign mantras. "To me it's just caring about people."
Powell, an African American, predicted that if Bush were elected to the White House, he would "help bridge our racial divides."
But the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also cautioned the GOP for spurning affirmative action in education and the party's frequent lack of understanding about the plight of African Americans. At the same time, he noted, many Republicans ignore "affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax codes with preferences for special interests."
Hear Powell's full speech from the opening night of the Republican National Convention.
Powell's address finished off a day when many women and blacks, Latinos -- and even former Democrats speakers were given a high profile at the convention as the party attempts to reach out to voters who have traditionally voted for Democrats.
The roster of Monday's guest speakers also included Texas governor's wife, Laura Bush, who spoke about her marriage, her children and her husband's determination to improve education and reading standards for young students.
"George is a leader who inspires the best in others and will bring out the best in our nation," said the first lady of Texas. "He never loses sight of homeplate."
Hear Laura Bush's full speech.
Veering Toward Moderation?
So began the four-day Republican National Convention in South Philadelphia where Bush's candidacy goes unchallenged and will surely be approved overwhelmingly.
"We have never been more united, more enthused, more excited about our prospects this fall than I can ever remember." Jim Nicholson, chairman of Republican National Committee, assured delegates as he called the convention to order.
Hear All Things Considered host Robert Siegel report from Philadelphia on how the GOP is aiming for a largely controversy-free meeting to demonstrate their unity.
Earlier in the day, Republicans adopted a platform that veers toward moderation on many issues -- a dramatic change from years past. No longer does it call for abolishing the Department of Education, look to tighten restrictions on immigration, or seek to adopt English as the nation's official language under law as it did in 1996.
GOP Looks to Soften Image and Broaden Appeal
Much of the softening of former hard-line conservative stands comes from Bush's call for a more inclusive party in the campaign to put an end the two-term Democratic administration under President Clinton. As part of that effort, Republicans are clearly attempting to reach out for votes from those who have historically supported Democrats -- women and minorities.
Still, of the 2,066 Republican delegates, 83 percent are estimated to be white, while 61 percent are male male.
Hear NPR's Brian Naylor report for All Things Considered on how Republicans are working to soften their image among minorities with the help of people like Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the only black Republican in Congress, who was also a guest speaker Monday night.
Then listen as All Things Considered host Linda Wertheimer talk with Republican pollster Linda Divall about how Republicans plan to address education, health and economic issues that are considered important to women voters.
Bush Buses Through Swing States
Bush has yet to reach the convention himself. He arrives in Philadelphia on Thursday after completing a campaign bus tour traveling through swing states that are considered must-wins in November. At the University of Dayton today, the Texas governor greeted more than 3,000 people. Hear NPR's Don Gonyea report for Ohio for All Things Considered.
Lobbyists Pay the Way
Not all of the events are being held at the convention. More than 4,000 delegates and alternates are being feted day and night at parties, receptions, golf tournaments, tennis games and other events -- many paid for by corporations and their lobbyists. Democrats are expected to be enjoying the same treatment when they convene in Los Angeles several weeks from now. Critics say it is just another way of money being used to buy political influence, while those picking up the bills believe it is just a way of expressing gratitude and good will.
Hear NPR's Peter Overby report for All Things Considered on how political conventions are now more elaborate and expensive than ever.
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