INSIDE THE BELTWAY: Bush succeeded in showing a more moderate face in Philly; will Gore remake himself in LA?

Behind the scenes at the Republican National Convention, GOP operatives inside a room called ’The Bunker’ were busy disseminating the ’new face’ of the Republican party to local TV and radio stations nationwide.

Behind the scenes at the Republican National Convention, GOP operatives inside a room called ’The Bunker’ were busy disseminating the ’new face’ of the Republican party to local TV and radio stations nationwide.

Behind the scenes at the Republican National Convention, GOP

operatives inside a room called ’The Bunker’ were busy disseminating the

’new face’ of the Republican party to local TV and radio stations

nationwide.



In the most extensive effort of its kind, 70 bookers covering nine

regions, and 15 schedulers, were busy trying to sell 200 surrogates for

the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Gov. George W. Bush.



As they were on the convention floor, those handling this quieter PR

effort were enormously successful. All of the surrogates, ranging from

retired Gen. Colin Powell to obscure House candidates, had been approved

by the Bush campaign, which also provided them with extensive talking

points. ’Everybody is singing off the same sheet of music,’ said Nels

Olson, the master scheduler and partner at the executive search firm

Korn Ferry.



And so they were: from the ranchera music of Latin singing star Vicente

Fernandez to the more well-known tunes of African-American songstress

Chaka Khan, the 2000 Republican convention was a masterpiece of

political spin. Despite the overwhelmingly white faces of the delegates,

and right-wingers Jerry Falwell and Oliver North roaming the halls, Bush

and company managed to control any hint of controversy or

dissension.



The only moments when the GOP went off message were during Powell’s

speech Monday night, when he chided his fellow GOPers for opposing

affirmative action for a ’few thousand black kids’ while supporting it

for lobbyists, and when Texas delegates threatened to walk out in

protest of a speech by gay Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe.



Now, the question becomes, can Al Gore and the Democrats top the GOP

show? With the Democratic convention beginning today in Los Angeles,

Democratic strategists are wondering what tack Gore should take - attack

dog or policy maven?



Bob Doyle of Sutter’s Mill consulting firm, who is working for a number

of conservative Democratic House candidates, said Gore needs a radical

image makeover in order to beat Bush in the fall. He thinks that picking

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an orthodox Jew and one of the first to

condemn President Clinton during the impeachment scandal, as his running

mate is a good first step. ’I truly believe that if (Gore) does not give

the American public a reason to take a second look at him or redefine

himself, there’s (not) a win scenario for him,’ Doyle warned.



While Bush succeeded in putting a friendly, more moderate face on the

modern Republican party, Gore must put a more palatable face on

himself.



This week’s convention may be his last chance to do it.





- Rachel Van Dongen is a senior staff writer at Roll Call in Washington,

DC



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