- - Sunday, August 19, 2012

Don’t look for many bold pronouncements when Republicans and Democrats adopt party platforms at their national conventions.

Platforms are supposed to reflect the core values of the party and maybe provide some red meat to fire up the base, getting activists excited about supporting their presidential nominee. That’s what Democrats hope to do by embracing gay marriage in their platform, a position that President Obama only recently has adopted.

But no candidate wants to provide political fodder for opponents by including something in the platform that might turn off the sought-after undecided swing voters who could decide the election.

“You don’t want a sentence or paragraph or phrase from your platform to be used against you in an ad or in a speech as a wedge issue,” said Linda P. Schacht, a veteran of many Democratic conventions who worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaigns in 1976 and 1980.

That could present a challenge for Republican Mitt Romney, who will have to contend with supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., at month’s end. Mr. Paul’s supporters are determined to make their mark on the convention, and the Texas congressman has pointed to the platform as a good way to do it.

“A lot of delegates who are pledged to vote for Romney are actually very strong supporters of ours and will be strongly supporting us when we want to put things into the platform to say, ‘Hey, we don’t need another war,’” Mr. Paul said in a recent broadcast interview. “The Federal Reserve? Yes, we do need to audit the Fed, and we ought to really cut spending.”

The GOP platform committee meets Monday and Tuesday in Tampa, ahead of the start of the convention Aug. 27.

Mr. Romney will have enough delegates to win any battle over the platform. But if Mr. Paul’s supporters aren’t placated, they could become an unwanted distraction, forcing public debates over foreign policy and the fight against terrorism at a time when Mr. Romney would rather focus on the struggling economy and his efforts to defeat Mr. Obama.

Many of Mr. Paul’s libertarian views dovetail nicely with mainstream Republican ideas on limited government and low taxes. But Mr. Paul breaks with much of his party when he rails against American intervention abroad, calling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan illegal because Congress never passed a declaration of war. Mr. Paul also calls for abolishing the Federal Reserve and repealing the Patriot Act, legislation enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to give law enforcement more tools to fight terrorism.

Don’t look for any of those positions in this year’s Republican platform. But party leaders could make some concessions, perhaps agreeing to a plank that calls for an audit of the Fed or a broad statement that calls for respecting civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.

Would that be enough to appease most Paul supporters?

“The delegates are individuals. They’re going to go in there, the ones we have on the platform committee, they’re going to go in there and fight for what they actually want,” said Marianne Stebbins, a delegate who coordinated Mr. Paul’s campaign in Minnesota. “I think you’re going to see — I’m hoping — quite a different platform (from 2008), where we’re talking about civil liberties a little more, whether it’s Internet privacy or warrantless wiretaps.”

But, she added, “You don’t turn the barge around in a day.”

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