A group of moderate Republicans, many long out of office, called on President Bush and the Republican party to "come back to the mainstream" on the eve of the Republican National Convention (search).

"Instead of partisan ideology — which increasingly has led moderates to leave the party — what's needed is a speedy return to the pragmatic, problem-solving mainstream," the group called Mainstream 2004 said in newspaper advertisements to be published Monday.

The "Come Back To The Mainstream" ads say what many moderate Republicans are thinking, said A. Linwood Holton (search), who was Virginia governor from 1970-74.

The problem lies with the "extremist element that controls the Republican party," Holton said, "which has polarized this country."

"I see the ads as an effort to try to get the Republican party to widen its appeal" to moderates around the country, Holton said. "Bush talks that way, but I don't see him or the rest of the party doing that."

The group in its ads called on Bush and the GOP to "stop weakening environmental law"; start using "pay-as-you-go" budget discipline to end deficits; clear the way for embryonic stem cell research; and appoint mainstream federal judges.

The way the party is now, Holton said he wouldn't vote for President Bush. "Not unless they change substantially between now and November," he said.

The list of Republicans signing the ad include former GOP Govs. David Cargo of New Mexico, Dan Evans of Washington, A. Linwood Holton of Virginia, William Milliken of Michigan, Walter Peterson of New Hampshire; former U.S. Sens. Charles Mathias of Maryland and Robert Stafford of Vermont; and Nathaniel Reed, former assistant Interior Secretary under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and Russell Train, EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Ford.