- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

PHILADELPHIA — An international group of Republicans is mobilizing six million "stealth voters" living overseas to cast absentee ballots before October for Gov. George W. Bush and the party's congressional candidates.
"They are a very obscure and forgotten set of voters and the party's secret weapon," said Michael J. Jones, executive director of Republicans Abroad International.
While those six million voters are not all registered Republicans, they share the same views as the party and historically vote Republican, Mr. Jones said.
More than 80 percent voted Republican in the 1996 election and are credited with electing Republicans in 15 tough congressional elections. Sen. Connie Mack of Florida says absentee voters put him over the top to win his seat in 1988.
"We create election surprises," said Mindy Poole Chebout, a South Carolina native who now lives with her husband in Paris.
Americans living overseas are far from apathetic about party politics and the upcoming election, Mr. Jones said.
"Something metaphysical happens when they move overseas," he said. "These are patriotic people who don't have the freedoms they had in America, or the infrastructure. They get misty-eyed over what a wonderful place we have, and they see first hand how important it is to protect our freedom by voting."
Trade, taxes, education and defense are the issues ex-patriots are clamoring about in this year's election, and party officials at the Republican National Convention are listening.
Military personnel stationed overseas represent the largest block of absentee voters. They were sent a message from vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney during his acceptance speech Wednesday night.
"For eight years, Clinton and Gore have extended our military commitments while depleting our military power," Mr. Cheney said. "Rarely has so much been demanded of our armed forces and so little given to them in return."
If elected, Mr. Cheney said he and Mr. Bush would reverse that trend and provide better training, equipment and leaders they would be proud to serve.
"I can promise them now, help is on the way," Mr. Cheney said to a cheering crowd.
John W. Wood, chairman of Republicans abroad, was given the opportunity to address party delegates on the convention floor earlier in the week.
"For the last eight years, we Republicans Abroad have had ringside seats as America's strengths increased, and respect for America's political leadership decreased," Mr. Wood said.
"We've watched as — having emerged from the exhausting struggles of the Cold War — the world turned to the solo superpower for steadiness and purpose, only to be greeted with the sad spectacle of the Clinton/Gore administration," Mr. Wood said.
Former Secretary of State George Schultz and several members of the House and Senate spoke at the group's daily meetings throughout the week, and some are planning to travel abroad to hold town meetings, which they hope will encourage Americans to vote Republican.
Public events are being planned for the Philippines, Japan, Egypt, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Costa Rica.
James Baker, former Reagan chief of staff and Treasury Secretary, has agreed to tape television advertisements urging Americans to cast absentee ballots.
"We are not doing issue ads or promoting specific candidates, because we know more votes in general, mean more votes for the Republican party," Mr. Jones said.

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