Themes Show Multi-Faceted Agenda

From war hero to compassionate conservative, the daily themes at the Republican National Convention are meant to remind Americans that President Bush is a versatile leader with plans that move beyond war and into four years of domestic hope, Republicans in New York City say.

"I think we need to" have those reminders, Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., told Themes are needed to help melt down the major issues for an at-home audience that will see limited coverage of the daily and nightly speeches on TV, he added.

"I think you have to be focused on your message, and frankly, that is all people get are the themes, and all of that will bubble back to the people back home," he said. "And I think the president’s speech on Thursday is critical for the election in terms of outlining where we are going."

Monday’s convention theme "Courage of a Nation," reached its zenith with a flashback by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (search) to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The retrospective was meant to remind Americans where the country was three years ago and what the administration has done since then to heal and protect the country from future attacks.

"I do believe that there are times in our history when our ideas are more necessary and important for what we are facing. There are times when leadership is the most important," he said.

"President Bush's response in keeping us unified and in turning the ship of state around from being solely on defense against terrorism to being on offense as well and for his holding us together. For that and then his determined effort to defeat global terrorism, no matter what happens in this election, President George W. Bush already has earned a place in our history as a great American president," he continued.

For Tuesday’s "Compassion of the American People" theme, first lady Laura Bush is expected to discuss her husband’s compassionate conservative (search) domestic agenda. The evening’s speaker schedule wraps up with a much-anticipated speech by moderate California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On Wednesday, the "Land of Opportunity" is the theme on which maverick Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia will expound.

Though national security competes with the economy as the top voter priorities in most polls, Republican officials said Monday that they believe Bush could round out those issues by talking about his successful efforts in health care reform, like his signing a bill to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and education funding under "No Child Left Behind," (search) which is set to increase some 40 percent from four years ago, according to Republican lawmakers.

"If you look at his efforts, Medicare (search) and education, both controversial particularly, as Republican-leading efforts, it is showing he is engaged in the softer issues, but I do think it is incumbent upon him" to emphasize that, Kennedy said.

"He’s been hiding it, so he needs to get it out," said Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut who argues the Republicans and the administration have not done enough to tout their domestic successes.

"First off, they should talk about Medicare, prescription drugs and No Child Left Behind, major accomplishments," Shays added. "So it’s important for [Bush] to use this forum wisely."

Radio talk show host Martha Montelongo blames the press in part for not giving credit to Bush's domestic successes. "I think the press is ignoring the policy that the president puts out," particularly regarding health care.

However, she said that tax policy will be be one of the staples of the campaign, and of the convention message, and she sees cutting taxes and one of the most compassionate of all conservative policy efforts.

"Tax cuts (search) benefit the poor," she said. "One of the biggest obstacles to moving out of poverty is taxes. Having high taxes is a means for keeping poor people perpetually in their class."

Ohio State Rep. Larry Wolpert called the convention's themes "a balance between the two" issues of war and domestic policy and guessed that more emphasis would be put upon the latter.

Ohio State Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett agreed, saying that while the party faithful don’t need to be reminded, independent swing voters could use a crash course in Bush policy 101, as well as hear what he has to say on his vision for the future.

"I think the convention is one opportunity you have to address the message to the American electorate,” he said. “The swing voters are going to tune in."