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Delegates Say Time Has Come For Bush To Sharpen Fuzzy Image

August 18, 1988

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ George Bush must sharpen a personal image that has grown fuzzy over the last eight years and show Democrat Michael Dukakis for the liberal he is if the GOP is to win the presidency, say delegates to the Republican National Convention.

″His image was fairly sharp with the American people eight years ago,″ said Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead of California. ″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.″

Oregon state Treasurer Anthony Meeker 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.″

Many delegates believe Bush’s major opportunity to strengthen his image will come tonight 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 Indiana. ″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.″

Barry McCarty, a North Carolina delegate, 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,″ McCarty said.

Colorado delegate Syl Morgan-Smith 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.

Others warn Bush against trying to be someone he’s not.

Alan ″Punch″ Green, Bush’s Oregon campaign chairman, said he advised the vice president to ″stay the way you are. Every time you try to change it, it comes out phony.″

Added Ken Chlouber, a miner and state legislator Colorado: ″You can’t Reaganize George Bush. He’s going to have to plow his own ground.″

Delegates believe that once the vice president outlines his agenda and goes after the Democrats, he will surge ahead of Dukakis in the polls.

Surveys 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 percentage points. But Bush narrowed that double-digit lead to an almost dead heat as the Republican convention neared.

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 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.″

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.

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