Bush accepts nomination, gains support at convention

Erin Ghere

Holding up two men as their answer to the country’s problems, Republican delegates from every state converged in Philadelphia this week at the Republican National Convention in an effort to reclaim the White House.
Culminating in the official nomination of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former defense secretary Richard Cheney as presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the four-day spectacle included speeches by retired Gen. Colin Powell, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former cabinet secretary Elizabeth Dole.
Bush walked across the stage at the First Union Center in south Philadelphia and accepted the party’s nomination for president Thursday night.
About 15,000 reporters and thousands of Republican delegates looked on during the convention’s crowning moment.
“We’re going to do things differently if given the chance to lead the country,” Bush said Thursday night in his nomination acceptance speech.
Bush will attempt to reclaim the presidency after eight years of Democratic reign. The general election is Nov. 7.
Recent polls placing Bush above Democratic challenger Vice President Al Gore have Republicans cautiously optimistic.
A Sunday NBC-Wall Street Journal poll had Bush with 44 percent and Gore with 38 percent. Bush’s numbers have risen several points since choosing Cheney as his running mate last week.
GOP Platform
The Republican platform, which passed with little opposition, included the party’s traditional opposition to abortion and gay and lesbian rights. But the language against abortion was less harsh than in past years.
The platform also challenged mandatory student-services fees, which are tacked on to tuition bills at universities and colleges nationwide. At the Twin Cities campus, students pay about $200 in mandatory fees per semester.
“At many institutions of higher learning, the ideal of academic freedom is threatened by intolerance,” the document says. “Students should not be compelled to support, through mandatory student fees, anyone’s political agenda.”
The 81-page platform also mentions plans to increase access to education through student financial aid, expand opportunities for women through Title IX and increase Pell Grants for students taking “challenging courses” in math, sciences and technology.
For the first time in recent years, Republican delegates did not support abolishing the Department of Education.
Northern exposure
A roll call of states began Monday night, with Minnesota casting its vote 32nd on Tuesday evening, said Randy Skoglund, deputy executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party and press aide to the state’s delegation.
Surrounded by a sea of colors — mostly red, white and blue — Ron Eibensteiner, Republican state party chairman, described Minnesota as “the land of 10,000 lakes and one goofy governor,” before casting the state’s vote for Bush. The opening drew laughs from the convention floor.
Thirty-three of Minnesota’s 34 delegates voted for Bush, with one standout opting for Alan Keyes, former United Nations ambassador and Bush’s lone Republican challenger.
Eibensteiner predicted Minnesota would vote Republican in the presidential election for the first time in nearly three decades, saying “in Minnesota, the times, they are a-changing.”
Across the convention floor, signs declaring the name of each state stood above colorful delegates wearing clothing bearing the American flag, Bush stickers and cowboy hats representing Bush’s home state.
Hawaiian delegates, who described their state as the “land of pineapples, big surf and colorful shirts,” sported leis during roll call. Other delegates waved red and blue pompons in the air as they cheered.
Student voice
But Minnesota’s tall, white sign was not the state’s only presence at the convention.
The Minnesota College Republicans were given an award Monday night for being the largest college delegation in attendance, Skoglund said.
Additionally, nearly 150 represented Minnesota, including the 34 official delegates and three Republican candidates seeking Minnesota offices.
“We need to get someone in the White House who won’t just talk about women’s issues while exploiting women at every opportunity,” said state Sen. Linda Runbeck.
Runbeck, who is running for the state’s Fourth District congressional seat, was one of 22 House candidates who got two minutes each at the podium.
Traditionally considered a Democratic state, Bush and Gore are nearly tied in recent Minnesota polls. Minnesota has not voted Republican in a presidential election since 1972 when President Nixon won.
A different kind of party
Many political watchers saw a Republican Party which appeared more open to some previously unwanted groups.
The convention stressed diversity, welcoming a blind mountain climber to help open the convention and an African-American woman to sing the national anthem.
Even WWF star “The Rock” got into the swing of things, opening the convention on its third day.
However, most in attendance at the convention were white and middle-aged.
Powell’s speech emphasized Bush’s commitment to diversity but lashed out at members who do not see affirmative action as fitting into that picture.
He said Republicans have taken every opportunity to “roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action,” and said the party must reach out to minorities “not just during an election-year campaign.”
This year’s party platform was silent on affirmative action.
Skoglund said the party has recognized that it hasn’t always done a good job of reaching out.
The Democratic National Convention will be held in Los Angeles from Aug. 14 to 17. Gore said Monday he will announce his vice-presidential running mate Aug. 8.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3218.