NEW YORK – Republicans adopted a platform Monday that rallies behind President Bush's agenda while edging the GOP's social principles further to the right.
The platform puts the party on record — although not necessarily on course — behind a constitutional ban on gay marriage and reaffirms the GOP's position that abortion should be outlawed in the Constitution as well.
Those issues were flash points in a pre-convention debate between conservatives and moderates. Republicans eventually settled with language that backs the line sought by the right while declaring that the party respects disks.
"Our platform highlights the principles that unite our party," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), platform chairman, told the opening day of the Republican convention. "We stand squarely, fully and firmly with President George. W. Bush in a time of profound national and historic consequence."
The platform's title reflects the theme of the week: "A Safer World, a More Hopeful America." Delegates adopted it with a roar of approval in a voice vote, with scattered nays.
The rules in both parties make it extremely difficult to challenge the platform from the convention floor.
Terry McAuliffe (search), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the GOP platform an "extremist, special interest document" at odds with the views of the moderate speakers the Republicans are highlighting at their convention.
"So if you really want to know what George Bush and Dick Cheney stand for and what they intend to do over the next four years," he advised TV viewers, "turn down the volume and read the platform."
Nothing binds Bush or any Republican candidate to the platform. Even so, the Bush campaign and party leaders worked to make sure the religious conservatives who are a key part of the GOP's base did not move the statement of principles out of the president's comfort zone as he campaigns for moderate and swing voters.
The platform committee turned aside an effort, for example, to have the party oppose all research using embryonic stem cells. The party stuck with language supporting Bush's restrictions that allow federal money to be spent only for research using pre-existing embryonic stem cell lines.
And in a campaign where Democrats and Republicans are competing hard for Hispanic votes, the convention adopted a platform that extends a welcoming tone to legal immigrants and supports Bush's proposal to grant temporary legal status to millions of illegal aliens with needed job skills. Conservatives failed to make substantive changes in that policy.