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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

RNC kickoff with debate on platform

20

August

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UPDATE 12:45 p.m.:

As delegates huddled in conference rooms at the Marriott Waterside discussing the platform, advocacy groups walked the ballroom hallways, busily tapping text messages into their smart phones.

Tea party groups were especially excited about the influence they were having.

“Everyone is expecting Romney to move to the center,” said Debbie Wilson, an Apollo Beach resident who is a member of Tampa 912 and a state coordinator for FreedomWorks, the Washington D.C. group founded by Dick Armey. “But I’m pleased to see that so far, the platform is very much to the right.”

FreedomWorks had 30 ideas that it posted on its website and let members log on and vote for the ones they supported. Ryan Hecker, a legal advisor for the group, said 1.2 million votes came in, selecting 12 conservative proposals they wanted to see in the platform, including repealing Obamacare, imposing a flat tax, reducing the federal workforce and regulation, and auditing the Federal Reserve. Hecker said the platform had included 10 of the 12 proposals, nearly word-for-word, a tribute to the lobbying the group has done on the delegates before this week's meetings on the platform.

 “We’re extremely happy that the Tea Party can have this type of influence,” Hecker said. “We’ve definitely taken over the Republican Party.”

GOP platforms since at least 1996, however, have reflected far right orthodoxy, said Al Cardenas, a Tallahassee lobbyist who represents the American Conservative Union. By now, about 80 percent of the work on the platform is done. The next two days will be a matter of tweaking language here and there, inserting or deleting clauses.

But Cardenas said he was impressed so far with how well the platform is getting done, calling it unusually well-written with little disagreement.

“I’m delighted, it’s one of the best drafts I’ve seen,” Cardenas said.
 
One of the platform committee's co-hairs. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tenn., said Republicans got more people engaged this year, with more than 30,000 votes on various policies to be included. She said women, especially, were more prone to find the GOP appealing this year because it addressed jobs and the economy.
 
But she said she didn't hear comments made by Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, who is running for the U.S. Senate, that women's bodies can somehow shut down to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
 
"I haven't heard that," Blackburn said. "But I would find myself distancing myself from that."
 
She said the platform, which is still in draft form and hasn't been released to reporters, will repeat the 2008 plaform in "supporting life."

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It’s looking a lot like the Republican National Convention.

In a warm-up to next week’s GOP coronation of nominee Mitt Romney, the Republican National Committee will be meeting today and tomorrow at the Marriott Waterside writing the party platform.

This will be the general policy statements that will guide the campaign for the presidency from here on out. Of the 112 delegates for states and territories who have a say in the platform, 107 attended the kickoff meeting this morning at 8 a.m., including Florida’s representative, Remedios Diaz-Oliver, president of All American Containers, a manufacturer of glass, plastic, metal containers and caps.

Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly of Missouri gave the opening prayer (“God, we ask for your guidance in this platform process,” she intoned.)

Helming the process are co-chairs Gov. Bob McDonnell, Va., Sen. John Hoeven, N.D., and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tenn.

“We can shape a document that can get our country back on track,” Blackburn told delegates. “You’ll be able to say, ‘I had a hand in this.’ ”

Delegates broke into smaller subcommittees after the opening remarks. This afternoon, two of those subcommittees, “Economy, Jobs and Debt” and “Energy, Agriculture and Environment” will give reports to the entire Platform Committee. Tomorrow, the remaining subcommittees, “Restoring Constitutional Government”, “Government Reform”, “Health Care, Education and Crime”, and “Foreign Policy and Defense” will deliver their final reports. The delegates will be able to amend the platform before voting on it tomorrow night. It will then be submitted to the Republican National Convention, where it will be voted on next Monday.

McDonnell reminded the delegates that consensus was the goal.

"I ask that the delegates be passionate, but civil," he told them.

Already it seemed that immigration might cause some tension within the ranks. Diana Banister, an Alexandria, Va. attorney, said heading into convention week it seemed that a guest worker provision, which would allow skilled and unskilled workers to remain in the U.S. for temporary periods of time, would be included. But as of Monday morning, it wasn't in the platform draft. Copies of the draft weren't available to the media.

In addition, Republicans for Choice, an advocacy group, will hold a policy briefing on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. to challenge the platform's stance on social issues, such as reproductive health and same-sex marriage.

"For the first time, the Republican Platform Committee is categorizing some of our country's most pressing social issues under the 'faith' section of its platform," the group said in a statement Monday. "While these issues were addressed in previous GOP platforms, they have never been discussed under the banner of faith before."

Republicans for Choice is holding tomorrow's event with Catholics for Choice and it will feature speakers from other splinter groups like the National Council of Jewish Women and Log Cabin Republicans.

[Last modified: Monday, August 20, 2012 1:48pm]

    

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