Republicans went on record Tuesday with a reaffirmation of their hard line on abortion and edged toward a more moderate stance toward climate change, reflecting the views of both John McCain and the conservative base.
In its platform debate, the party stuck to its call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion despite McCain's opposition, and toughened already uncompromising language on the issue.
Conservatives succeeded in removing a line from a platform draft that merely urged a reduction in abortions — underscoring their point that abortion should be eliminated. At the same time, the party weighed an energy policy acknowledging the human imprint on climate change.
Nothing written into the platform will tie McCain's hands in the campaign and it was questionable whether he'd pay much attention to it. Presidential candidates often don't.
Economy, social issues and guns
The two days of platform hearings in Minneapolis focused the party on a review of what it stands for and exposed familiar divisions between conservative and moderate elements, though a reluctance to engage in the big platform struggles of the past.
The 112-member platform committee approved planks on the economy and social issues, after strengthening statements in favor of gun and property rights and the swift deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of gang crimes. Issues remaining to be dealt with on Wednesday include global warming, embryonic stem cells and how far to go with an official English language requirement.
The panel opened meetings with a draft document about half as long as the swollen 2004 platform, and party officials were determined to keep it relatively succinct.
"If we want the American people to read this, we've got to produce it in a length that they're comfortable with," said North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, leading the meetings with California Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
Official U.S. language
The committee passed a plank calling for English to become the nation's official language, but not without some sparks. Sue Everheart of Georgia said she feared the position would cost Republicans the support of immigrants.
"I want every Republican vote out there," Everheart said.
The platform draft also urges a constitutional ban gay marriage, which McCain does not support.
It would put the party on record as accepting that economic activity contributes to global warming, in line with McCain's views.
But the platform is loaded with caveats about the uncertainty of science and the need to "resist no-growth radicalism" in taking on climate change.
It warns that empowering Washington on the matter would have painful consequences, hardly a rousing endorsement of McCain's ambitious plan for mandatory federal emission cuts in a cap and trade program.
Sharp disagreements still exist in the party on social issues, but there appeared to be little taste for complicating McCain's chances by mounting a symbolic platform fight as the document is hashed out in Minneapolis.
The platform will be adopted at the Republican National Convention next week in St. Paul, Minn., after the committee finishes with it Wednesday at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
McCain opposes gay marriage but also is against a constitutional amendment against it. He has expressed limited support for the rights accorded couples in same-sex civil unions. Apart from opposing a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, he is against most abortion rights and says he would favor overturning the Supreme Court decision affirming those rights.