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Giuliani, Lieberman Will Speak at GOP Convention

Sen. John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Sen. John McCain speaks during a town hall meeting at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. (By Mary Altaffer -- Associated Press)
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By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Socially moderate former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman will have featured speaking roles at next month's Republican National Convention, party officials announced yesterday.

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Giuliani, who once thought he would be the one accepting the GOP nomination, will deliver the keynote address on the Tuesday night of the convention. The mayor's unorthodox campaign never found favor with the party's faithful, and he ended his presidential bid without winning a single delegate. But he remains a popular figure among Republicans and is thought to appeal to Democrats and independents.

But he fairly quickly gave antiabortion activists in the party something to grouse about. Asked in a conference call with reporters whether Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, could choose a running mate who supports abortion rights, Giuliani said yes.

He said he knew McCain's first criterion would be selecting a person "who could immediately be president of the United States." He added: "If that person happens to be, among other things, pro-choice, the party will support that."

McCain, who adamantly opposes abortion, declined to discuss the running-mate issue yesterday with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who said that "from the conservative perspective, we are literally imploring you to not turn your back on your great pro-life record over decades."

McCain outraged some conservatives last week when he said in an interview that a potential nominee's views on abortion rights may not be enough to cost a spot on the ticket.

Another abortion-rights supporter is Lieberman, an independent senator from Connecticut. Lieberman, who ran with Democrat Al Gore in 2000, supports his former party enough to give it control of the Senate but is an ardent backer of McCain, a longtime friend and colleague. His address on the opening night of the convention is intended to signal McCain's independence.

"He's known to buck his own party," said a Republican official involved with the planning. "McCain's like that, too, sometimes."

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said Reid is ambivalent about Lieberman's decision. "Senator Lieberman can speak to whatever group he wants, but it's not going to change the fact that John McCain is a flawed candidate who is wrong on every issue facing the country," Manley said.

Reid has repeatedly deflected questions about Lieberman's status inside the Democratic caucus by noting that his one vote gives the Democrats their majority status in a 51 to 49 chamber. And Lieberman, while traveling in the war-torn nation of Georgia as an unofficial McCain emissary, called Reid on Tuesday night to notify him of his GOP appearance. That conversation led Reid to express "his own misgivings" about McCain but not to a discussion about any retribution to Lieberman, Manley said.

The convention lineup announced yesterday features a long list of McCain's vanquished primary opponents -- including Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee -- as well as most of those mentioned as potential vice presidential nominees -- such as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who fits on both lists, is scheduled to speak on Wednesday night.

A party source and campaign official said no significance should be attached to the potential vice presidential candidates and their assigned speaking times -- or their absence from the schedule. The lineup could adjust depending on McCain's selection.

The theme for the four-day convention is "Country First," and each night will be organized loosely around four themes: service, reform, prosperity and peace.

"Our convention will showcase a cross section of leaders who will highlight John McCain's long commitment to putting our country first -- before self-interest or politics," said Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communications director. "The speakers will address John McCain's unmatched record of service and sacrifice for America, and his vision for moving our nation forward to keep us safe and get our economy back on track."

First lady Laura Bush will speak on Monday, the first night of the convention, before her husband and after Vice President Cheney. McCain's wife, Cindy, is scheduled to address the convention on Wednesday night, the same evening as his running mate.

McCain will deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night after 10 p.m. Eastern time -- and after the NFL's opening night game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, convention planners hope. "Don't mention overtime," one said.

Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.


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