Republicans Watching What Dems Say - and Don't Say

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - Republicans outlined their strategy for the Democratic National Convention on Monday: They will call attention to Democrats' efforts to disguise or downplay their liberal agenda.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), in a conference call on Monday, said Democrats don't want to talk about Sen. John F. Kerry's 20-year record in the Senate; nor do they want to talk about Edwards' six-year record, or even the candidates' policy positions.

"But we want to have that debate and we're going to talk about it," Gillespie said. "John Kerry is a far-left duckling that hopes to emerge from his convention as a center swan."

Gillespie said Republicans will make the point that the Democrats' record "is at odds what they are saying and that they are trying to hide things...They're not saying what they're really for, and what they're saying is not what they're really for."

Gillespie said his job as Republican Party Chairman is to get information out there. "I think what they're doing on the democratic side is trying to keep information hidden. And that's the purpose of this call..."

Sen. Kyle said the most remarkable thing about the Democrat Party Platform is what's missing -- and what's "unintelligible."

"For example, the Patriot Act," Kyle said. "They (Democrats) keep talking about the need for strong intelligence, but I defy you to tell me what they mean in their section on the Patriot Act. They appear to be supportive of the goals but want to hide the ball with respect to the particulars."

Kyle said it's the same thing with illegal immigration, climate change, No Child Left Behind, and oil independence.

"There's nothing in here about John Kerry's opposition to Connor's law," Kyle added, referring to the law that makes it a crime to kill the baby of a pregnant woman in the commission of a federal crime.

Kyl said the Democratic platform does not include a plank on victims' rights; and there is no plank expressing opposition to the death penalty: "It's odd to me that a party that has as its slogan, 'Stronger at home and respected abroad' dropped some of the very things that the Clinton administration thought were so important with respect to personal security," he said.

Kyl also quoted from press reports saying that the Democrats' platform does not call the war in Iraq a mistake, nor does it urge withdrawal of American troops.

"The document offers very little guidance on what we would do differently in Iraq." Moreover, Kyl added, "With respect to Iraq specifically, and terrorism generally, there's very little difference between the goals of the Bush administration and what are stated as goals in here."

Kyle said some of the draft document may be out of date, and it's not clear yet what will end up in the final version, which will be adopted at next week's political convention in Boston.

But as it stands now, Kyle said the Democrats' platform appears to be a "makeover to hide the very liberal record of the people on the ticket."

'Anger management'

Gillespie said that Republicans -- on each day of next week's Democratic National Convention -- will hold "anger management" sessions to discuss where the Democrats stand on the issues.

"We're going to continue to try and highlight where they're trying to hide the ball, as the Senator said, because it's clearly part of their strategy going into November."

Gillespie said the Republican Party plans to hold a daily 10 a.m. press conference featuring policy experts, senators, governors, and others who will "talk a little about what's going on that day and offer some commentary.

"I realize that we'll be swimming upstream, but we're going to swim anyway," Gillespie said. He said he would give more details about the Republican Party's plans later this week.

'Anticipate a bounce'

Gillespie said he expects next week to be a good week for Democrats.

"Anticipate a bounce," he told one participant in the conference call. "You know, historically the bounce has been an eight-point gain for the challenger, a seven-point drop for the incumbent -- so, a 15-point swing.

"I'm not sure, given how closely divided the country is today, that they can get a full 15-point swing and match the 30-year average. But they will get a bounce. It will be a significant bounce coming out of there."

Daschle leaving early

One caller asked Gillespie and Kyl about Sen. Tom Daschle leaving the convention early - an effort to keep Kerry and Edwards at arm's length?

Kyl responded, "Most of what these two very liberal senators stand for doesn't go over very well in large portions of our country. And I suspect that Tom Daschle's non-attendance at most of the convention is as much a product of the fact that he' got a very difficult race at home, as it is the fact that he doesn't want to be seen standing side by side with these folks."

Gillespie added that spending time in Boston probably wouldn't help Daschle back home in South Dakota, where Republican John Thune "is running a fantastic race."

In response to another question, Kyl expressed the opinion that Middle America is not particularly interested in the notion of the United States being "respected abroad."

"This theme, which seems to be emerging -- "Strong at home, respected abroad" -- most Americans in the heartland are not that concerned about whether Teresa and John Heinz are going to get invited to a fancy dinner in France. You know, whether the French respect us or not is far less important than how our enemies perceive we will deal with them," Kyl said.

Gillespie said he believes the most important thing Republicans can talk about next week is Sen. Kerry's policies. He said voters can make up their own minds about how liberal the Kerry-Edwards ticket is.

"In my estimation, if we point out the fact that this is a nominee on the Democratic side who has voted against the child tax credit, who has voted against eliminating the unfair marriage penalty in our tax code, who has voted against repealing the death penalty which many Americans, especially small business owners and farm owners, consider to be inherently unfair. This is a Senator who voted to go to war in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power, but then voted against funding for our troops in combat.

The Democratic nominee voted against the unborn victims of violence act. Again, as Senator Kyl highlighted, that he has voted consistently against the death penalty for people who kill police officers in the line of duty, or voted against the death penalty for terrorists, that elections are about issues.

"People can come to their own conclusions as to whether or not those facts make Senator Kerry a Massachusetts liberal," Gillespie said, adding it doesn't make a bit of difference if Gillespie or other Republicans call him liberal.

As for the Republican Party platform, Gillespie said the platform committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and co-chaired by Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado and Rep. Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania, will convene the week before the convention.

"We are waiting for two more state delegations to elect their platform committee members, and then we'll convene the week before our convention in the same way the democrats will convene this week.

He said drafting the platform will be easier for Republicans than it is for Democrats, since Bush ran on the platform four years ago.

"I'm sure that in about a month my [Democratic] counterpart will be having a conference call talking about our platform, and we're happy to discuss it at that time," Gillespie said.