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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

For the GOP, Voices With Reach

Republican convention will feature speakers who are expected to appeal to swing voters.

June 29, 2004|Mark Z. Barabak | Times Staff Writer

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and maverick Sen. John McCain -- three Republicans with proven appeal to swing voters -- topped the line-up of prime-time speakers announced Monday for the GOP's national convention in late August.

Schwarzenegger, who sought a prominent convention slot despite his reluctance to play a big role in President Bush's reelection bid, was chosen to cap the second night of the four-day convention, following First Lady Laura Bush and Education Secretary Rod Paige.

While Schwarzenegger and Bush differ on some key social issues -- the governor supports gay rights and legalized abortion -- "he shares one very important thing with the president," said Leonardo Alcivar, a spokesman for the Republican National Convention. "He says what he means, and means what he says."

No details were provided about the subjects Schwarzenegger would address or how long he would speak. Rob Stutzman, the governor's spokesman, told reporters convention planners attached "no conditions" to Schwarzenegger's appearance.

But the governor likely will be expected to help highlight the evening's theme, the president's education policies.

The convention's Aug. 30 opening night will focus on national security issues and include a tribute to former President Reagan. Giuliani is booked to speak that night, as is McCain, the Arizona senator who lost the 2000 Republican nomination to Bush.

Vice President Dick Cheney will speak Wednesday night, and Bush will wrap up the convention Thursday night with a speech formally accepting the GOP nomination. He will be introduced by the host governor, New York's George E. Pataki.

In showcasing Schwarzenegger, McCain, Giuliani and Pataki, the Bush team appeared to turn back to the script that worked so well four years ago, when they made the GOP convention in Philadelphia a pageant of ethnic and ideological diversity.

Schwarzenegger, Giuliani and Pataki have all demonstrated appeal to cross-over voters by winning election in heavily Democratic constituencies. McCain has won strong support among independents and some Democrats for supporting campaign finance reform and speaking out when he differs with Bush.

"The 2000 Republican convention was quite an achievement, and a major factor in Bush's election," said Robert Loevy, a Colorado College professor and an expert on presidential politics. "They're going to try to have the same success in 2004 ... projecting a more moderate, diverse and inclusive image."

How much that will help Bush this year remains uncertain. Polls have shown he is a far more divisive figure than he was in 2000.

Schwarzenegger has said he has no plans to stump for Bush outside California. Some political advisors have urged him to steer as clear of Bush as possible, mindful of the president's low approval numbers in Democratic-leaning California.

One of the more interesting appearances may be that of Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who played a prominent role at the last convention in New York City. During that 1992 event, at which Democrats nominated Bill Clinton, Miller delivered a prime-time speech blistering then-President George H.W. Bush. In an interview last month, Miller said he later apologized to the senior Bush, who "wrote me a beautiful letter" in response.

Miller declined to be interviewed Monday. In a statement, he said, "I want to help President Bush be reelected any way I can. And if they think this will help, I am honored to do it.''

The Democrats will hold their convention at the end of July in Boston, the hometown of their presumptive nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry. On Monday, Kerry averted a political headache when the local police union announced it would not picket the convention. Officers have been working without a contract for the last two years and picketed Monday outside a Boston meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Kerry chose not to cross the picket line for a scheduled speech to the group. In return, the officers union pledged not to target Kerry during planned protests at the Democratic National Convention.

"I'm obviously delighted with that outcome,'' Kerry said. "I know that good people, including the mayor, are working very, very hard.''

Times staff writers Maria L. La Ganga and Peter Nicholas contributed to this report.

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