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Conservative Eats Convention Crow By: Bobby Eberle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 09, 2004

As plans were being made to produce the 2004 Republican National Convention, conservatives from across the country were abuzz with dismay and frustration. "What kind of prime time line-up is this?" one conservative asked in an e-mail message. "Why aren't 'our' kind of Republicans being given time at the podium?" another questioned. "What are Karl Rove and the Republican Party trying to do?" a third one queried. Comment after comment streamed in during the build-up to the convention. The number of messages citing the need to reach out to the conservative base significantly dwarfed the number of messages from those who thought the convention should reach out to swing voters with a prime time line-up of moderates. Even in my column, I noted the need for the convention speakers to not forget the conservatives who are the life blood of the Republican Party.

Now that the convention is over and we've had time to digest the proceedings, one can only conclude that the event was a resounding success. What were Karl Rove and company thinking? Apparently, they were thinking much better than I was. Rather than frustration, I came away from the Republican National Convention in New York City with a full stomach, having dined thoroughly on a healthy helping of crow.

A post-convention analysis of the week in New York reveals a plan of remarkable depth -- a plan whose target was not the so-called "swing" or "undecided" voters, but rather the Republican base. Yet, the choice of message was one that, while energizing the conservative base, would also appeal to swing voters, especially at a time when the nation is at war. The convention plan eliminated pre-convention criticism from the media, and set everyone up for a complete and utter dissection and annihilation of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry.

First, a review of the prime time line-up of speakers is in order. These speakers, which drew much pre-convention criticism from conservatives, might, at first glance, simply seem like the bringing together of "big-name" moderates in an effort to capitalize on their name ID and influence swing voters. However, the selection of speakers such as media darling Sen. John McCain, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki, and Democratic Sen. Zell Miller accomplished several important goals, the first of which was to allow the Republican National Convention to begin without the media marginalizing the speakers by labeling them as "right-wing extremists" and other such adjectives. With a prime time line-up of so-called moderates, the only thing the media could do was speculate that the convention would be an attempt to show the "softer side" of the party and attract "crucial" swing voters.

In addition, the media, and a great many pundits, also failed to see that each speaker had a purpose. Each was a piece in an elaborate puzzle which would drive home the central message of the convention, support the Republican nominee, President George W. Bush, and show why John Kerry is not the right man for the job. Each speaker would also highlight on a topic for which he was imminently credible and for all practical purposes, untouchable.

To see the strategy behind the convention message and line-up of speakers, one must first recognize the three main qualities or attributes upon which Sen. Kerry is running. Number one, he's a Democrat -- not one of those evil Republicans like George W. Bush. Number two, he is a "war hero" who served in Vietnam and who thinks the war in Iraq is going poorly. Number three, he can wage a better -- as he describes, a "more sensitive" -- war on terror than President Bush. Yes, there are other issues that Sen. Kerry has mentioned from time to time such as health care and the economy, but for the most part, his entire campaign has been built around the three items just listed.

Enter Sen. John McCain. This senator, who spent years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has impeccable national security credentials and is honored and respected for his combat service. This Vietnam veteran laid out in very personal terms, the case for not only the war in Iraq but also the global war on terror. In reference to Iraq, McCain said, "Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war." The senator also said, "I believe as strongly today as ever, the mission was necessary, achievable and noble."

In glowing praise for President Bush, Sen. McCain said, "He has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time, and I salute him. I salute his determination to make this world a better, safer, freer place. He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He will not yield."

McCain, a revered Vietnam veteran who at the same time showed support for President Bush and the war in Iraq, also provided a direct counter to Kerry's Vietnam experience and his criticism of Iraq.

Next was the issue of the war on terror, and enter stage right "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani. Kerry may criticize the war on terror and say he can do a better job leading it, but who better to speak on the topic than the man who not only helped guide New York, but the entire country, through the terrible tragedy of 9/11. Giuliani talked personally about his experiences on that day. He vividly drove home the fact that America is, indeed, a country at war. He then ripped apart Kerry, saying, "President Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is. John Kerry has no such clear, precise and consistent vision." Giuliani went through a litany of the many changing positions that Kerry has held on issues ranging from war in Iraq and his lack of financial support for the troops there to his various positions on Israeli/Palestinian issues. In one of the lighter moments in his speech Giuliani said, "Maybe this explains John Edwards' need for two Americas -- one where John Kerry can vote for something and another where he can vote against the same thing."

On John Kerry being a Democrat and his premise that being one is somehow better than being a Republican, the convention presented Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller to the national audience. In 1992, Sen. Miller gave a key-note address at the Democratic National Convention which nominated Bill Clinton. Now, Miller stood before the convention delegates and delivered a scathing indictment of not only Sen. Kerry but the entire Democratic Party. "I can remember when Democrats believed that it was the duty of America to fight for freedom over tyranny," Miller said. The Georgia Democrat then said that today's Democrats are "motivated more by partisan politics than by national security." Miller listed a number of weapons programs that are currently used today to fight the war on terror -- weapons programs which Sen. Kerry voted against. Miller added, "This is the man who wants to be the commander in chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?"

Thus, in a one, two, three punch combination, McCain, Giuliani, and Miller presented a clear contrast between George W. Bush and John Kerry. In addition, rather than speak to "wedge" issues or moderate items on the Republican agenda, they talked about the number one issue of this campaign -- the global war on terror. They energized the base using an issue that is important to all Americans, and they did so from a perspective on which they've earned a wealth of respect. Throw into the mix the "American Dream" story of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the personal reflections of First Lady Laura Bush, and the speeches of Pataki and Cheney, and the convention, from start to finish, was one which stayed on message.

The convention energized the base using the words of respected moderates. The convention picked apart Kerry's platform using individuals of national renown. The convention also framed everything from a personal perspective, which delivers an even more powerful punch to the audience. The convention also delivered in spades its central message -- in a time of war, Americans will cast their vote for the best commander in chief, and that person is President George W. Bush. To Karl Rove and company, I tip my hat. Now, let's take this energy and not back down until the last poll closes.

Bobby Eberle is President and CEO of GOPUSA (www.GOPUSA.com), a news, information, and commentary company based in Houston, TX. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Rice University.

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