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Published: Tuesday, 8/31/2004

Taft doesn't quite make it to prime time

BY BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft rallies Buckeye State delegates. He is chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft rallies Buckeye State delegates. He is chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
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NEW YORK - Addressing the Republican National Convention at 1:50 p.m. is like sneaking into Yankee Stadium at 2 a.m. and trying to steal second base.

It might be fun, but no one sees you.

But that's the time slot Gov. Bob Taft received as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

"I'm pleased to report that we currently have Republican Governors in 28 states, and as their chairman, I proudly announce to you that we are strong and growing stronger,'' Mr. Taft said to the packed Ohio delegation in front of the podium.

Most of Madison Square Garden, however, was empty.

Brendon Cull, a spokesman for the Democratic coordinated campaign in Ohio, questioned why the governor of a battleground state is "almost invisible" at the GOP national convention.

"Is it because of the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in Ohio? Or is it because tax rates have gone through the roof under his administration?" Mr. Cull said.

- JAMES DREW

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So how many parties are there at a Republican convention? On Day One, there were 135 parties involving food and/or drink, ranging from early morning champagne breakfasts to midnight suppers. Most popular guests? Members of Congress dealing with the financial services industry.

- ANN McFEATTERS

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NEW YORK - There are some things you just don't do when talking to the Michigan delegation at the Republican National Convention.

One of them is to boast that your home state is now a competitor for jobs with Motown.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist learned that the hard way when, in an attempt to warm up Michigan delegates at the beginning of his breakfast speech to them yesterday, reminded them that his home state of Tennessee is evolving into an auto manufacturing powerhouse. The crowd not only warmed up - it went from room temperature to boiling in no time flat.

His politically intemperate remark to a delegation already sweating about President Bush's prospects in a state that has lost nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs in the recent recession was received with catcalls, good-natured boos, and a pledge from Michigan Rep. Candice Miller to make sure Detroit remains America's car capital.

"We will take that challenge,'' she said after he had left the room. "We have the best work force in the entire world. We can compete against anybody, anywhere in the world.''

With public opinion polls showing Mr. Bush within striking distance of Democratic challenger John Kerry in Michigan, where Democrat Al Gore walked away with a win four years ago, the state GOP delegation appears unwilling to concede anything to anybody.

- FRITZ WENZEL

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NEW YORK - In the battle for creative gifts, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from the Dayton area, is in the lead within the Ohio delegation.

When delegates and alternates arrived at their hotel rooms in Times Square, they received a bag with three red, white, and blue fortune cookies inside.

The three fortunes held Kerry-Edwards campaign slogans:

● "At least we're not Hillary."

● "Undecided? Us too!

● "Endorsed by Jerry Springer."

- JAMES DREW

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The Republican National Convention is erecting a special stage for George W. Bush when he accepts the party's nomination Thursday night. It will be round and "homey" with ardent supporters surrounding him, so that he is "one of the people,'' not speaking to them from on high. Cost? $2.5 million.

- ANN McFEATTERS

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NEW YORK - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't have great appeal to those sensitive moderates and women voters that the Republican Party is desperately chasing to nail down a second term for President Bush.

But he's got star power in a political party that attracts few of them. So, the body builder-turned-movie star-turned-politician will add yet another title to his name tonight: convention speaker.

As one of the most versatile figures in the national GOP these days, the Austrian immigrant will talk about what he has lived - the American dream.

"As someone who came to this country and is now the governor of California, the compassion of an America who helped him get where he is today, and the opportunity that exists in this country because we are a compassionate people,'' said party spokesman Jim Dyke.

"For Terminator, I think you had 150 million people who bought a ticket. I don't know what demographic that is, but it's probably a pretty broad cross-section of society,'' Mr. Dyke said.

- FRITZ WENZEL



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