- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

NEW YORK — President Bush’s strategists outmaneuvered conservatives at every turn in Republican platform proceedings here, achieving nearly total success in pushing through the planks favored by the president’s re-election campaign.

“By the time everyone got to New York, the battle was over — the fix was in,” said Richard Lessner, American Conservative Union executive director. “The committee simply rubber-stamped whatever the administration desired.”

Conservative activists outside the platform committee got almost none of their language or policy goals into the platform that will be presented to next week’s Republican National Convention.

During breaks in platform deliberations Wednesday and yesterday at the Javits Center in Manhattan, officials from the White House and the Bush campaign mingled with the 110 platform committee members, all handpicked by the White House.

Eagle Forum President Phyllis Schlafly, the point person for conservative forces in the platform process, lobbied to strengthen the platform’s opposition to stem-cell research and to oppose amnesty for illegal aliens.

White House representatives told Mrs. Schlafly they wouldn’t budge on the stem-cell plank. Mrs. Schlafly also failed in her attempt to add language opposing Social Security benefits, driver’s licenses, federal student loans and in-state college tuition for illegal aliens. Despite her efforts, the platform endorses Mr. Bush’s “guest worker” proposal — which critics call an amnesty plan for illegals — while also declaring the GOP opposes amnesty.

One of the few conservative successes was the addition of language supporting federal and local law enforcement working together to secure the nation’s borders.

“The process was very controlled, as everyone knows,” said Schlafly aide Lori Waters.

“Conservatives were badly outflanked by the Bush operation,” Mr. Lessner said.

Many conservative critics privately admit to grudging respect for the discipline and secrecy shown by the Bush campaign team and the Republican National Committee — now essentially united as Team Bush — in getting exactly the platform the party establishment wanted.

The discipline began months ago with White House selection of the platform chairman, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and co-chairmen Gov. Bill Owens of Colorado and Pennsylvania Rep. Melissa A. Hart.

The Bush forces believe that with a moderately worded platform, they will win over more weak John Kerry supporters among Democrats and independents and more undecided voters than they will lose from disgruntled voters among the ranks of Mr. Bush’s conservative base.

Some conservatives doubt that the moderately worded platform favored by Team Bush will do anything to attract independent voters and wobbling Democrats.

“Soft Democrats and moderate voters will never see the platform,” Mr. Lessner said. “The only people who will pay attention are his base of grass-roots Republicans and a lot of them will be very unhappy.”

But a Los Angeles Times poll of 1,352 registered voters, taken Saturday through Tuesday and released yesterday, suggests Mr. Bush is doing a better job than Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, of consolidating his base.

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