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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Republican Rumble Likely Over Abortion

SACRAMENTO, California -- One of Bob Dole's worst nightmares -- a convention-week battle over abortion -- moved closer to reality Wednesday as both sides in the Republican party's bitter internal debate on the issue vowed to press efforts to change the party platform.


In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, California Governor Pete Wilson said he will go to the convention, which opens in San Diego on Aug. 12 , seeking new language that would drop the party's call for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortions and instead would highlight social policies intended to deter unwanted pregnancies.


Meanwhile, in Washington, Patrick Buchanan, who was Dole's most successful challenger in Republican primaries, insisted that he would not accept compromise language Dole has proposed and would offer new wording of his own that would toughen the party's anti-abortion stand.


Dole had once thought he had put the abortion issue to rest with his proposal to add a "declaration of tolerance" to the platform. But as the convention nears -- deliberations on the platform begin Monday -- his campaign once more seems to be caught between increasingly bellicose factions on his left and his right.


That prospect deeply worries Republican strategists who said they fear that a nasty conflict within the party is increasingly becoming inevitable as other party officeholders come to view Dole as a likely loser.


"If this was a close election, they wouldn't want to harm anything," said one senior Republican strategist. "As people's confidence in Dole's ability to win the election wanes, there are some political realities that come in."


For example, Wilson has been in close consultation with two allies -- Governors William Weld of Massachusetts and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey -- both of whom come from states that have strong majorities supporting abortion rights. Weld is seeking election to the Senate this year and has a particularly strong incentive to bolster his standing with moderate voters, the Republican strategist noted. Whitman faces re-election next year.


Weld said he was pressing ahead with plans for a fight on the issue on the convention floor. Under Republican rules, introducing an issue at the convention would require support from a majority of six state delegations. Weld said, "the chances of getting six are pretty good. That would mean a floor fight."


Buchanan, in a Washington news conference, called Dole's idea "not acceptable" because abortion "is a matter of right and wrong, it's a matter of life and death."