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Conservatives to Fight McCain at Convention

Monday, 07 Jul 2008 01:42 PM

By Phil Brennan

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September's national convention for Republicans won't be a bed of roses for Sen. John McCain. There's at least one impediment to keep him from his party's nomination — a probable fight over the platform.

At issue are his stances on such explosive issues as global warming, immigration, stem-cell research and campaign finance. The Washington Post reports that, "Virtually the entire platform will have to be rewritten to lessen the imprint" of President Bush, whose name appears on nearly every page."

Although McCain has yet to reveal how he plans to alter the strongly conservative platform, the Post reports that many conservatives fear he'll want the platform to reflect his own views that in many instances diverge from those of most conservatives.

McCain is "really out of step with the strong majority of his party," Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute told the Post. The Institute opposes McCain's positions on climate change.

GOP officials in the Republican National Committee, as well as those in McCain's campaign, told the Post they have much in common with conservatives. They say their conversations as they approach the convention suggest there will not be a nasty platform fight.

"We are confident that this process will produce a platform that all Republicans will enthusiastically support," said Joe Pounder, a spokesman for McCain. "Our party is united, and will continue to work together to elect John McCain in November."

Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and a former Ohio secretary of state, told the Post he does not expect a "bloodletting" in the platform committee but predicts that conservatives and McCain will be reasonable and stay focused on a November victory. "I don't think you are going to see any radical departures or inflammatory demands for change in one direction or another," he predicted.

The Eagle Forum's Jessica Echard will go to Minneapolis-St. Paul, site of the Sept. 1-4 convention, for two weeks in August, with the primary goal of making sure the 2008 platform reflects conservative principles. For example, she would like the platform to have a much tougher position on unwarranted amnesty for people who arrive in the U.S. illegally than does McCain.

Another hot button issue is McCain's acceptance of global warming theory. Many conservatives feel the theory of man-made global warming is a hoax, and the current platform more or less skirts the issue by talking about using "markets and new technologies" to solve possible climate change.

McCain on the other hand supports government action to address global warming, which the Post described as "a centerpiece of his campaign." McCain, the newspaper reports, supports a cap-and-trade emissions plan that many conservatives oppose, and he has talked about trying to reach a global-emissions agreement that includes China and India.

"It is something that we are very concerned with," Donald J. Devine, vice chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) told the Post, which reports that the ACU will have a convention operation to monitor proposed changes to the platform. In past years, the ACU has produced an alternative conservative platform as a guide to those working on the real one, the Post recalled.

Devine told the Post he is hopeful that the environmental planks in the platform will focus on McCain's support for nuclear power plants and his willingness to revisit offshore oil and gas drilling. But he is prepared for the worst.

"There's no question it's going to be changed radically," he said of the platform.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, told the Post that McCain should be careful as he and his allies seek to change the platform to reflect his political sensibilities.

"He attracts a lot of votes in the middle — independents and moderates," Ebell said. But "if he pushes on each one of these issues — campaign finance, immigration, or global warming and energy issues — he's likely to keep a lot of people at home on Election Day."

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