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The Party's Over, It's Back to Work for Minnesota Delegates
By Michael Khoo
August 4, 2000
Part of MPR's coverage of the Republican National Convention 2000
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

Many of the Minnesota delegates to the Republican National Convention head home with optimism that the state is winnable for George W. Bush. The convention wrapped up in Philadelphia after Bush accepted the party's nomination for president. The Minnesota delegates gave Bush's speech high marks, and say they're leaving Philadelphia united and confident Bush will defeat Vice President Al Gore in November.


George W. Bush delivers his acceptance speech at the convention. (Listen)

State GOP Chairman Ron Eibensteiner summarizes the theme of the convention. (Listen)

State DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson gives his view of the Republican convention and Bush's speech. (Listen)

Mary Jo Copeland of Sharing and Caring Hands reacts to being mentioned in Bush's speech. (Listen)

GEORGE W. BUSH used his acceptance speech to call for a new beginning. He said the Clinton-Gore administration has failed to lead on military preparedness, education, Social Security and Medicare reform. The son of a president, who is running as an outsider from Texas, Bush capped his case against the incumbents with a veiled criticism of President Clinton's sex scandal to contrast himself with Vice President Gore.

Bush sought to define his trademark compassionate conservatism by echoing Ronald Reagan's call to "tear down that wall," this time the wall separating the successful from those left behind by the booming economy. And he used a Twin Cities example to make his point.

"I think of Mary Jo Copeland, whose ministry called Sharing and Caring Hands serves 1,000 meals a week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each day, Mary Jo washes the feet of the homeless, and sends them off with new socks and shoes. 'Look after your feet,' she tells them. 'They must carry you a long way in this world, and then all the way to God.'"

As the band played and the balloons and confetti dropped, Minnesota convention delegates predicted Bush would win in November.

"This is going to be a down-and-dirty race on the Democratic side," said delegate Mike Lindsay. "We'll be able to clearly answer every charge they might level against us."

Lindsay said Bush made the case that he's ready to be president. "There should be no question in the voter's mind who they're going to get if they elect Bush," he said.

Bush's emphasis on helping the less fortunate completed the kinder-and-gentler theme of the convention. Absent from the podium for most of the week were Republican members of Congress whom the administration has worked against since 1994, and those who led the impeachment effort against President Clinton last year.

Republican First District Congressman Gil Gutknecht says the Republican House leadership should have received more public credit for its work.

"The country is much stronger today than it was in 1994," Gutknecht said.

To pay for their four-day pageant, Republicans collected more than $13 million from corporations, ranging from General Motors and Chrysler to Microsoft, AT&T and Philip Morris. Democrats will collect similar amounts from many of the same companies to pay for their convention in Los Angeles the week after next.

While elected officials were for the most part absent from the convention stage, many spent much of the week in Philadelphia behind the scenes at receptions and parties talking about policy issues like the federal budget and raising millions of dollars in campaign funds.

Gil Gutnecht says the fundraising is part of the business of the convention. "This is a chance where people who represent the large PACs and the large donors do come and there are people who are willing to help candidates. People who live in Pennsylvania are willing to contribute to Minnesota candidates if they get a chance to meet them," Gutknecht said.

The money will be spent on campaigns this fall as Republicans try to keep control of the U.S. House. Minnesota GOP Chairman Ron Eibensteiner is predicting Republicans will gain at least two House seats and that Bush will carry Minnesota. He says the lack of excitement many complained about at the convention is actually good news for the Republican Party.

"The reason (the convention) appears scripted is we're all united. We want to win the White House," Eibensteiner said.

With Bush holding a substantial lead in the polls nationally and tied with Al Gore in the latest Minnesota polls, Democrats face a substantial challenge as they head into their convention in Los Angeles in 10 days.

Clearly the Republicans see "Clinton fatigue" as the major issue of the campaign. If Bush's challenge at this convention was to prove he's ready to be president, Gore's may be simply to prove he's not Bill Clinton, and at the same time to demonstrate that the country doesn't need the kind of change Bush is offering.