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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Republicans, Activists Head for Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- U.S. vice presidential hopeful Dick Cheney backed away from parts of his staunchly conservative record Sunday, as Republicans strived to open their national convention Monday free of dissent and projecting a reassuring message of moderation.

As George W. Bush made his way to Philadelphia, stumping at a picnic in Ohio, former rival John McCain released the convention delegates committed to him, ensuring the Texas governor's nomination would go smoothly.

In the streets of Philadelphia, between 3,000 and 5,000 demonstrators marched peacefully through downtown in an effort to raise awareness for a myriad of causes. Nearby, at the University of Pennsylvania, an array of satirists and social activists opened their alternative Shadow Convention, where Arizona Senator McCain was booed at the mention of Bush.

Much of the preconvention activity, however, was taking place outside Philadelphia f in the television studios of Washington, where Cheney made the round of morning news programs; in Chicago, where President Bill Clinton took verbal potshots from afar, and at a rain-drenched baseball diamond outside Cincinnati, where Bush rallied 2,000 of the party faithful.

"Now we're here in Ohio, and the last two elections we haven't done so well," Bush told the soggy, cheering crowd in Blue Ash. "But that's going to change come November."

The next four days, however, will be critical to Bush's chances and Republicans were determined to give their standard-bearer a better send-off than their nominees enjoyed from their last two conventions, which were marked by fiery rhetoric and ideological conflicts. "I need every one of you to give this campaign the same amount of enthusiasm and participation you did for our primary campaign," McCain told supporters as he freed his delegates and urged them to back his former rival.

One last worry for the Bush camp evaporated Sunday night when abortion-rights advocates conceded they lacked the support to force a floor fight over the platform's call for a blanket ban on the procedure. "It's over," said Candy Straight, a New Jersey delegate, who tried unsuccessfully last week to strike the hard-line plank.

With Bush making only one campaign stop, Sunday's convention spotlight landed on his running mate f and also on Cheney's 31-year-old daughter, Mary, who has said she is gay.

As Democrats launched a new attack ad focusing on Cheney's record in Congress, the former Wyoming lawmaker alternately defended, explained and retreated from some of his more controversial votes. Today, Cheney said, he might vote differently on guns, education, the Equal Rights Amendment and other issues. "I don't want to say that I'm absolutely for cop-killer bullets," Cheney said on NBC. "I'm clearly not."

One thing Cheney said he would not change was his 1986 vote against a House resolution seeking freedom for South Africa's Nelson Mandela, who was then imprisoned and who would later become president. The resolution also called for recognition of Mandela's political organization, which "was then viewed as a terrorist organization," Cheney said, explaining his opposition.

But Clinton seized on the vote, singling it out during an assault on Cheney's record at a Democratic fund-raising luncheon in Chicago. "That takes your breath away," the president said.

Cheney wasn't the only family member on Sunday's talk-show circuit. Appearing on ABC, Cheney's wife, Lynne, grew indignant when interviewer Cokie Roberts started to ask, "You have a daughter who has now declared that she is openly gay f are you worried?"

"Mary has never declared such a thing," Lynne Cheney interrupted. "I would like to say that I'm appalled at the media interest in one of my daughters. I have two wonderful daughters. I love them very much.

"They are bright. They are hard-working. They are decent. And I simply am not going to talk about their personal lives. And I'm surprised, Cokie, that even you would want to bring it up on this program."

But gay and lesbians were something of an issue during two days of convention platform hearings. Social conservatives inserted in the platform language endorsing the Boy Scouts' exclusion of gays, emphasizing the party's opposition to so-called gay marriage and its condemnation of "the gay lifestyle."

Along with an upbeat tone, convention planners will try to liven proceedings. Windy speeches from elected officials will give way to the personal stories of "ordinary people" whose various ages and ethnicities are designed to send a message of diversity and inclusion.