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banner Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
Bush's bumpy centre ground
campaign diary
By the BBC's Gordon Corera in Philadelphia

Even though nine out of 10 delegates at the Republican Convention are white, the party has been working hard to showcase diversity in its opening days - all part of George W Bush's attempt to take the centre ground in the coming campaign.

On Monday, the top attraction was former General Colin Powell. Powell undoubtedly has star power - you could tell that the moment he stepped on the stage and confidently saluted the crowd to raucous cheers.

But not all of his lines raised big cheers, in fact at times the applause was decidedly muted.

That was because the rhetoric was not always what you would expect at a Republican convention.

Colin Powell:
Colin Powell: Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly condemn affirmative action
The line that surprised people most was on the subject of race. Colin Powell said: "Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly hear a whimper when it's affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interests."

This was not traditional convention fare - normally delegates are served plenty of red meat on the menu - hard-hitting (often personal) attacks on the other party and their candidates. Instead, the party itself was being criticised for favouring corporations over minorities.

So why is the Bush campaign pushing so hard on diversity and letting one of its top speakers challenge its delegates?

It is easy to say that it is all for the audience at home and there is no doubt that the Laura Bush and Colin Powell speeches were designed to showcase the best side of the party to the nation.

Hispanic vote

But the TV cameras were off during the day and early evening when many of the speakers were brought up onto the stage and the only real answer is that Bush is trying to change his party.

The Texas governor does have a good record on reaching out to minorities and won a good chunk of the Hispanic vote in his 1998 re-election as governor.

Realising that his party stands somewhat behind him, Bush has clearly decided to try to take his party with him to the centre ground.

But Tuesday holds some problems for Bush in moving towards an inclusive party.

Civil rights

Jim Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican Congressman is speaking on trade issues but members of Bush's own Texan delegation have said they will not show up for his speech in protest and others will sit quietly and not applaud.

On Monday, the convention adopted policies opposing gay marriages, gays serving in the military and special civil rights protection for gays.

Bush has reached out more than previous candidates to gay Republicans, meeting them in April, but clearly not all of his party are with him on this issue yet.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Election news
The two faces of Philadelphia
29 Jul 00 | Election news
Choreographing the convention
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