Stars Shine Across Political Spectrum

Some would say that for all of the on-message scripting of this week's Republican National convention, the speeches and buzz have provided more than one Republican hero, inspiring cults of personality along moderate, conservative and independent lines.

New Yorker Rudy Giuliani (search), former mayor of one of the most diverse cities in the world and site of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has developed a major following among moderates. Sen. John McCain (search) of Arizona, known for his "straight talk" and nonconformist spirit, has won the hearts of independent-minded mavericks. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) has appealed to the up-by-the-bootstraps lovers of self-sufficiency.

But other names at the convention have sparked the imaginations of Republican delegates. Georgia Sen. Zell Miller (search), a conservative Democratic firebrand who crossed over to the "dark side" to stump for President Bush, shocked convention-goers with his venemous rant on John Kerry.

And social conservatives have pointed to Sen. Rick Santorum (search) of Pennsylvania, often referred to as a "rising star" in the GOP, as a new hero.

"I think they have such a wealth of talent out there,"  said Victor Gaston, the longest-serving Republican in the Alabama state House. He's been in office since 1984.

Gaston named Santorum as the political titan with whom he most identifies.

"Not that I didn't enjoy every word by the other speakers. [Santorum] spoke to me very, very completely," he said, referring to Santorum's speech and focus on traditional family values. "He's a bright young star."

On the other hand, Connecticut voters are likely to identify with moderates Giuliani and Schwarzenegger, and with the independence of McCain, said one Northeastern delegate.

Connecticut voters have been traditionally Democratic, but have long fostered so-called "Reagan Democrats" and have a strong Republican presence today.

"I know that [they] are known as moderates and I think they show that [Republicans] allow for different views" and diversity of thought within the party, said Tom Foley, head of President Bush's campaign in Connecticut. For example, while the party platform takes an anti-abortion position, both Schwarzenegger and Giuliani are pro-choice.

Chip Brown, another fan of Santorum from Mobile, Ala., said the Pennsylvania senator has a "George Bush quality in that he is a straight shooter."

But Brown doesn't want to stop there. He and other social conservatives said Miller — who gave a boisterous keynote in support of Bill Clinton's presidential re-election in 1992 — rocked the house Wednesday night with his almost sermon-like discourse.

"I like his message," said Brown, referring to Miller's harsh criticism of Democrats' "soft" stand on military strength.

And it wasn't just southerners who warmed to the sentiment. "Liz," an activist from California, said Miller struck a chord with delegates when he emphasized keeping America's families safe.

"Family is a big issue in the conservative movement," she said. "Security and family and a return to apple pie, baseball and old-fashioned American values."

Miller has said that he's been a Democrat his entire life, and that it fits like an old suit. With his retirement from public office, GOP delegates won't have to decide whether to break ranks and vote for him in a national election.

For some, it was the relatively new faces like California's actor-turned-governor that attracted their attention.

"I enjoyed Arnold," said Cindy Smith, a guest of her husband, a delegate from New York, who describes herself as "pretty moderate."

"I was very happy to hear his views [on] how everyone has an opportunity," she said.

Her husband Robert Smith said he was going with Giuliani, because he exudes a strong stand on defending the nation, but is more moderate on the social issues. "Security is our first line of defense, and I'd have to say I prefer Rudy to that end."

Greg Miller, a New York delegate, said he was attracted by an even newer face — Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan.

Michael Reagan (search), who was adopted by the late president and his first wife, Jane Wyman, spoke in part about the virtues of adoption during his speech Wednesday. Miller and wife Elaine have two adopted daughters.

Elaine Miller said she would have to say George Bush, who has always emphasized, "family values and respect for life, is more reflective of her Republicanism.

"I'm probably more aligned with the president than I am with any of them," said the Binghamton resident.