High Stakes for McDonnell on GOP Convention Platform Committee

It’s no small task. As chairman of the GOP Convention platform committee, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says his goal is to create a document that captures the “heart and soul” of the Republican party.

In an interview this week about the job ahead, McDonnell told News4, “How do we get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work? That’s what this campaign is all about so we’re going to try in this document to capture the essence of that.”

But McDonnell’s high-risk, high-reward challenge is to oversee the creation of a document that unifies Republicans and still appeals to important independent voters. He must also make sure the GOP platform appeases certain interest groups so they don’t create a convention scene.

Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul are making a controversial demand -– that the platform call for an audit of the federal reserve. They’ve threatened trouble in Tampa if their idea is rejected. McDonnell didn’t commit, either way.

“We’re still looking at all those ideas,” he said. “You’ll know in a couple of weeks once the final document is approved in Tampa.”

McDonnell said he’s not worried about the tea party creating a stir because he believes the platform will represent their interests.

“We need to get the federal government back under control,” he said. “That’s the essence of the tea party, but you know what? That’s consistent with the core, conservative policy of the Republican party, so I don’t look at it as a big challenge.”

More of a challenge: The fact the Log Cabin Republicans will, for the first time, participate in the platform writing process. But while the Democratic platform draft committee has voted to include a plank supporting same-sex marriage, Gov. McDonnell said the Republican platform will not bring a shift in position.

“I think you’ll see an affirmation of traditional marriage as the best circumstance in which to raise children and I don’t see any deviation from that,” McDonnell said.

He makes it clear that his platform priorities are focused on economic issues.

“A lot of the ideas I’ve put forward have to do with economic development, jobs and free enterprise,” he said.

Ideas have come in by the thousands, McDonnell said. On the convention website, platform ideas are solicited around the clock. Some gain support as participants “second” them. While the categories of jobs & economic growth and government reform get the most attention, others sound off about social issues, with one stating “same sex marriage isn’t an option.”

The platform committee leaders are holding an initial meeting in Washington at the Capitol Hill Club, but the real work will take place in Tampa just before the convention, from August 19-21.

“Once we get down there we’ll have a draft document to start with and then the 112 member of the platform committee are free to offer their own ideas and offer their own amendments,” McDonnell said. “This is grass roots democracy at its base level, and I’m excited about that.”

But University of Mary Washington political analyst Stephen Farnsworth says McDonnell will have to be careful, to make sure the final platform document doesn’t create too much of a stir and divert attention from Mitt Romney.

“It seems to me the governor is politically savvy enough to figure out what to give people what they want so ugliness doesn’t appear in front of the cameras, so the party doesn’t look divided,” he said.

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