GOP Delegates Urge Bush to Come Out From Reagan’s Shadow
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ George Bush should step out from President Reagan’s shadow and ″come out of the chutes raising hell″ to capture the White House, say delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Delegates believe that once the vice president outlines his agenda and goes after the Democratic ticket - beginning with his prime-time speech to the convention Thursday night - he will surge ahead of Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in the polls.
Polls taken immediately after the Democratic National Convention last month showed Dukakis enjoying the traditional post-convention bounce, and leading in some surveys by 17 or 18 points. But Bush narrowed that double-digit lead to an almost dead heat as the Republican convention neared.
Some delegates believe Bush must sharpen his image to succeed, with the advice ranging from declaring his independence from President Reagan to using fewer hand gestures, wearing horn-rimmed glasses and standing straight.
Others prefer that Bush ignore the suggestions and be himself.
Alan ″Punch″ Green, a Bush delegate and campaign chairman from Portland, Ore., said he has personally advised Bush to ″stay the way your are. Every time you try to change it, it comes out phony.″
″His image was fairly sharp with the American people eight years ago,″ said Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead of Glendale, Calif. ″As vice president, he’s had to step out of the limelight, but when he comes back into the spotlight, his independent image will become clear again.″
Syl Morgan-Smith, a delegate from Lakewood, Colo., said Bush ″has got to frame his campaign around his record, and tell the truth about the Dukakis record.″
″He’s got to get to the point, tell the truth, and he’s got to come out of the chutes raising hell,″ she said.
Oregon state treasurer Anthony Meeker of Salem said Bush has suffered an image problem ″because he has been No. 2. As soon as he can transcend that, an image transplant will have occurred.″
″You can’t Reaganize George Bush,″ said Ken Chlouber, a miner and state legislator from Leadville, Colo. ″He’s going to have to plow his own ground.″
While a handful of delegates believe the vice president must soften his image, a number of them say Bush must be more aggressive in describing where he stands and criticizing Dukakis.
″George Bush doesn’t convey to Bubba that he’s a hard-core conservative,″ said David Funderburk, a North Carolina alternate delegate and former U.S. ambassador to Romania. ″He’s not a cowboy. He’s a Connecticut Yankee.″
Barry McCarty, a North Carolina delegate from Elizabeth City, said Bush ″needs to take off the gloves.″
″The Democrats have done everything they could to cover up what Mr. Dukakis is - a rabid liberal. Bush has to pull that mask off,″ he said.
Many delegates believe Bush’s major opportunity to strengthen his image will come Thursday night when he delivers his acceptance speech to the convention.
″People are telling him to be himself, but you know sometimes you can try too hard,″ said Rep. John P. Hiler of LaPorte, Ind. ″If he’s just relaxed and tries to deliver the kind of acceptance speech George Bush can deliver and he does a good job, I think you’ll be surprised by how quickly George Bush starts to pick up momentum.″
A Bush surge in the polls may not be enough. Historically, no candidate since President Truman has won the presidency after trailing in the polls prior to the convention.
History professor and Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich is unfazed by that information.
″We’re a party that twice nominated a man who made movies with chimpanzees. Why do you think that we would worry about historical precedents,″ he said.
House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois said the GOP convention was orchestrated ″with the hope of the vice president improving his lot by 10 points. I think we’ve accomplished some of that.″
″I saw some polls last week that showed the race was narrowing ... the Democratic convention is wearing off and George Bush will benefit from our convention,″ said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley.
J.E. Brown, a state representatives from Lake Jackson, Texas, likened the convention attention to ″volleyball at the Olympics.″
″Nobody’s ever seen it - then it’s on TV for five days and the next thing you know, everybody you call and ask what they’re doing ... they’re going to play volleyball.″