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Archive for Sunday, July 16, 2000

Conventions tailor message to TV

July 16, 2000

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— By Walter R. Mears
AP Special Correspondent

Washington In the battle of convention buildups, Republicans are promising something different, Democrats talk of an entertaining liftoff for the fall campaign and both parties are producing shows with no shred of suspense.

That makes it difficult to sell their scripts to television, or get people to watch, but they trying to make the most of their one-hour broadcast network windows. Only cable TV will carry the conventions in full.

And Vice President Al Gore's new campaign chairman thinks the only people who "sit and watch this stuff" for long will be those who already have decided to vote Democratic or Republican.

William Daley, leaving as secretary of commerce to lead Gore's campaign, said there is a "climate of nobody gives a hoot" and that people are tuned out on politics this summer.

The conventions, the Republicans opening on July 31 to nominate Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president, the Democrats on Aug. 14 to nominate Gore, are the next best chance for campaigners to try to get people tuned in.

Hence the rival party efforts to persuade people that the plotless national conventions will still be something to see.

"Ours will be a different kind of convention for a different kind of Republican," said Andrew Card, organizer of the GOP's four days in Philadelphia for Bush. "Governor Bush is more interested in attacking our country's problems than scoring points against his opponents."

But a convention that does not score points for its nominee would be pointless. Both parties are looking for a bounce in the polls after their predictable proceedings; Bush leads Gore in the national surveys now, by margins varying from one percentage point to a dozen. Since his convention comes first, Bush probably will add to his edge early next month. Then the Democrats will take the stage for a week, and Gore should benefit.

The better the convention show, the theory goes, the bigger the bounce.

The Democrats start with one advantage, a Democratic president to open their performance. President Clinton will be featured on opening night in Los Angeles, in a TV time liftoff for Gore's convention. Hillary Rodham Clinton, campaigning for the Senate in New York, probably will be appearing the same night.

The rest of the convention will be Gore's, time to present himself as a potential president, to fully emerge from the secondary role of all vice presidents, Daley said.

Bush will appear by satellite hookup, on television and finally in person on each of the four nights of the Republican convention. Nominees usually have waited until the grand finale to make their appearances.

The Democrats are trying to package Clinton into their nightly hour of network TV exposure. He must compete with ABC's Monday Night Football. That network is plugging both convention opening nights into halftime of preseason football games.

Both Bush and Gore are said to be planning to name their vice presidential nominees before the conventions, standard practice now. So that part of the story line will be told before they convene.

Even the ceremonious roll call of the states is passy Republican reckoning. They are planning to break up the roll call into three nightly installments. They describe it as a rolling roll call.

Still dull television, but in small doses.

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