GOP Platform Balances Positions Of McCain, Party The 112 delegates on the Republican platform committee have hammered out a 20,000-word document outlining the party's beliefs, positions and ideals. It's a symbolic document, non-binding on the candidates. It proved to be an exercise in balancing positions held by the party faithful with those of their presumptive nominee, John McCain.

GOP Platform Balances Positions Of McCain, Party

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. In Denver tonight, Barack Obama will become the first African-American to accept a major-party nomination to be president. And one person who will be in Denver tonight to witness this historic moment is Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

Lewis helped launch the civil-rights movement. He marched with Martin Luther King on this day, 45 years ago. We'll hear more about him in a moment.

INSKEEP: First, let's talk about the Republicans, who are getting ready for their convention. Last night in Minneapolis, GOP delegates agreed on the final version of their party platform, and NPR's David Welna has our report.

DAVID WELNA: Clocking in at about 20,000 words, this year's GOP platform is not even half the length of the one the party banged out four years ago.

As always, this document does not oblige any candidate to follow its positions, but it does serve as a key reference on where the party officially stands.

Mississippi governor and platform committee delegate Haley Barbour considers the final product a success.

Governor HALEY BARBOUR (Republican, Mississippi): This is a platform that all Republicans can run on. But also, it's a platform where, rightly, the members of the committee took into consideration there's no need to just gratuitously poke your finger in your nominee's eye because there's a slight disagreement over this or that.

WELNA: Unlike the last GOP platform, which mentioned President Bush on nearly every page, this platform mentions John McCain only in its preamble. And some of the positions it takes fly in the face of McCain's own record as something of a Republican maverick.

Here's delegate Jane Orie of Pennsylvania reading the party's stance opposing same-sex marriage.

State Senator JANE ORIE (Republican, Pennsylvania): We call for a constitutional amendment to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

WELNA: McCain has consistently opposed such a constitutional amendment because he thinks it's an issue for states to resolve. McCain has also urged action to curb global warming and favors a cap-and-trade system many in his party oppose. The GOP platform makes no mention of cap and trade, while it rails against what it calls, quote "doomsday climate-change scenarios."

David Keene, who chairs the American Conservative Union, considers this platform very conservative, and he says it clearly falls short of what the McCain campaign would have wanted.

Mr. DAVID KEENE (Chairman, American Conservative Union): Obviously, they're very interested in not being slapped in the face, and the party's not interested in slapping the candidate in the face. But the party has not taken the position that you would've wanted them to take if you were a campaign operative for John McCain.

WELNA: But if there was a major concession to the McCain campaign, it was on the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. Unlike most Republicans, McCain opposes such drilling. So the draft of the platform that went before the full committee yesterday advocated more oil exploration in Alaska, but not specifically in ANWR. Alaska delegate David Boyle sought to change that.

Mr. DAVID BOYLE (Republican Delegate, Alaska): After the word Alaska, in line 31, I would like to add: comma, including the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

WELNA: Backing up Boyle was Cathie Adams of Texas, who argued that spelling out a commitment to drill in ANWR would be a boon to the party.

Ms. CATHIE ADAMS (Republican Delegate, Texas): And since this has become the number-one issue in this campaign, we want to drill here, drill now, pay less. In that spirit, I think that this is a very positive move and one that would be very complementary, one that would bring people to the party and to our candidate.

WELNA: But others sought to protect McCain, including Oregon's Jeff Grossman.

Mr. JEFF GROSSMAN (Republican Delegate, Oregon): We all support, I think, drilling in ANWR. And we know that President McCain will eventually come around to our position, but he's not there yet. And so I would say prudence would dictate that we leave the text as it is until our candidate catches up with us a little bit.

WELNA: The debate went on and on, between those who saw no reason to highlight party differences with McCain and those who insisted that the GOP not abandon its past strong advocacy for drilling in the wildlife refuge. Platform co-chair Kevin McCarthy finally called for a verdict on adding ANWR to the platform.

Mr. KEVIN McCARTHY (Co-Chair, Republican Party Platform Committee): All those in favor, signify by saying aye.

Unidentified Group: Aye.

Mr. McCARTHY: All those opposed, signify by saying no.

Unidentified Group: No.

WELNA: The amendment failed, but not by much. A divided party, in this case, chose to side with McCain. David Welna, NPR News at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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