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The start of the Republican National Convention - what does it mean to San Diegans?

August 27, 2012 1:12 p.m.

GUEST:

Carl Luna, political science professor, Mesa College

Related Story: What Do The RNC And Republican Platform Mean to San Diego?

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition is 12 San Diego Republican delegates in stormy Tampa, Florida. They are there for the official start of the Republican national convention. Tropical storm Isaac has already cut the convention storm down from 4 to 3 days but organizers are hopeful that the main events, the keynote speeches and Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney's expected speeches take place as scheduled. Training is Carl Luna, political science professor at Mesa college and a frequent political commentator here on KPBS. Carl, welcome back.

CARL LUNA: Nice to be here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Carl Luna, thank you for being here. One San Diego Republican who is not a delegate will be making an appearance on Tampa TV this week and he will be talking to GOP delegates that is mayor Jerry Sanders. Tell us about his commercial.

CARL LUNA: Mayor Sanders is part of a commercial talking about moderate Republicans, that the party should moderate its stance on gay marriage, gay rights. That's commercials being aired in the marketing part to try to nudge the party and in part to try to shame the parties of the party changes a bit of its viewpoint.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It is about marriage equality and Jerry Sanders basically says this is compatible with Republican values and that is why he changed his mind several years ago on the subject.that's basically what constitutes this commercial.

CARL LUNA: The argument is the Republican Party can be a broad tent party that would include members of the parties agree with some aspects of the rates Jerry Sanders is transitioning from being a politician to a statesman as he moves off the political scene.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In keeping with the idea that this commercial will be playing in Tampa as the Republicans are having their convention in the city it seems that social issues actually threaten to overtake this convention, which I believe GOP leaders hoped would be all about the economy. I'm thinking of the centers commercial and Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, his comments about rape and abortion seem to have energized that debated the country.

CARL LUNA: I joked with my students all of last year through the primaries that Republicans only Peter needed to say are you better off today than you are four years ago global warming are you better off today than you were four years ago and the economy any issues stay off the social issues as soon as you go there you lose moderates and independents but to maintain database the conservative base to get the Republican Party energizer that living without to get the vice presidential piece and how it will play with the undecided and independents will be the story of this election.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So the idea for people who say if Republicans want to win it has to be all about the economy, how has that developed that always seem to be talking about our social issues as opposed to the economy?

CARL LUNA: Even when it comes to the economy the big issue at the economy convention is debt and deficit they are starting the clock sandalwood look at Gallup polls and the rest 70% Americans are worried about jobs and only 7% are worried about (inaudible) and all the other social issues are down to one or 2% when you are unemployed or your house is underwater whether or not somebody who is gay marry becomes a much less concerned but that, the people go to conventions are the real base of the party really energized group want to talk about their issues. Ideally the party gets that out of its system in Tampa everybody feels good and they go back to the economic issues.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to talk to you in terms of that, of the platform that the GOP has voted on to improve during the lead up to this convention what is the GOP platform on rape in circumstances of race and incest?

CARL LUNA: It's a fairly hard-line. I forget the letters that when I took but it's about as conservative as the document has been in the platform going back for the three or four conventions. It sets forth very limited exceptions if any exceptions for the issue of rape, incest etc. it's a very hard line on abortion.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering do individual Republicans have to run on that platform?

CARL LUNA: The platform is but a bunch of Republicans in the party same as the Democratic Party and it's their dream this is a we would love to have everything you throw at something for every different group. Individuals from the local to national level pick and choose their Republican Democrats when it comes to the party platform.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So in other words if a Republican in San Diego or even a more liberal area of California were running for reelection to Congress or whatever would it be fair to confront that Republican committee Republican who is running for the seat and say this is what your party's platform is. Does that happen?

CARL LUNA: Fairness is such an interesting concept. What I do is fair what you do is not fair, and of course it does happen. The Republican Party is going to have to stand by there are candidates across the country issues related to students on Medicare and other such. The recent billing for. San Diego Carl Di Maio is not doing as well as seniors over 65 as you might think and that's probably some follow from the national debate on Medicare. That being said, political party platforms are very much like when you download an application on your computer and you have that you must read this and click on the button before you can get it nobody reads it, most people to read the party platform it is really more driven by the individual candidates and their positions.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have another question and they said that the platform is irrelevant about the platform---

CARL LUNA: It's not completely irrelevant. It defines the two parties but for most Americans were not going to invest the time to read the party platform it is only on the periphery of issues.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Or only people who have a vested interest in one or two of the issues in the platform and I think this is where this might qualify. Based on what the GOP platform says on immigration it apparently would do away with California's dream act which allows students who are in the country illegally to qualify for in-state college tuition and grants. Now someone who is a single issue, or limited issue voter might take a look at that and say I don't want to go near that.

CARL LUNA: Particularly an issue like the dream act the platform doesn't change anything for either party. It's a question of whether the Congress and president can change it down the pipe but it lays out a general position. If you are a party trying to reach out and include a lot more of the Hispanic vote you may not want a platform like that. If you're trying to solidify the conservative white older voting base you might want something like that which is a calculation the Republican Party made. Looking at this election inroads with Hispanic and African-American voters just are not going to be strong for Republicans. They need to get their precipice and write a document that the base agrees on.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: California is presently a state with a Democratic majority so it's not likely to support Mitt Romney for president. That being said, do you think what people hear at this convention speeches and rhetoric are more likely to help or hurt Republicans running for office here in California?

CARL LUNA: For those Californians who listen to the conventions that pay a lot of attention they are probably either Republicans that are committed already so it's not going to hurt, or Democrats who are looking for a gotcha moment for the campaign. For those few independents who are going to spend a lot of time on this it's probably not going to have that big impact go over time the national campaign (inaudible) or your state assembly races some of your local races where there is a chance you could have competition between Republican and Democrat.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you about the storm in the Gulf and its potential to become a hurricane that hits somewhere near New Orleans during this Republican convention. How big is this an image problem for the Republicans, I mean on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina?

CARL LUNA: It doesn't help that you are probably going to get landfall in the New Orleans area like on Wednesday or Thursday of the anniversary of Katrina but of course Republicans are not going to make that an issue. The commentators will make it an issue, the daily show will make it an issue. Not that many Americans will be paying attention at this point. It's not prepared for the American Republican Party kind of damages it's like having a wedding where drizzles or rains but it's not going to totally dampen the enthusiasm at all for Mitt Romney.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what do Republicans want to accomplish by the convention?

CARL LUNA: One columnist described the conventions as an infomercial that there is a long information to introduce your brand to voters who are just starting to pay attention to the political process. The campaign. Now go in the past going back 15 years and beyond actually pick their nominees that these things. Since the 50s and 60s the assignment was maybe who would be the VP. What's interesting here is that's already a spoiler. You already have all right being picked so now it's all about this is that Romney. The problem both Republicans and Democrats have is in something like 8 to 10% of Americans might be who are undecided like 85, 90% say they know as much as they need about the candidates they really understand the candidates. The oddity of the modern information age with of the 24-hour news cycle and all is where before you introduce yourself at the convention now is this is your probably your last chance to establish your brand for the fall. After that it is on the record and you are pretty much who you are. It's about getting your base after that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's interesting because I have heard it said about this Republican convention in particular that since it was such a hard fight with conservatives for Mitt Romney to get this nomination, what he wanted to do was reintroduce himself to the American public as a more moderate candidate you know, to sort of redefine his image going into the general election.

CARL LUNA: When (inaudible) pick up all right to be your vice presidential made when you have a large number of tea party representatives candidates and all highlighted in the speeches leading up to it you can only move so far away from the party line on this one at the convention. The commercials afterward you might try, but now met Robbie's biggest problem is that he has to be seen as a flip flopper because of too much of that. So he can try to reposition himself in bed, but the old adage that you zig to the right or the left in the primaries and you zag to the center has not really worked since 1996.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of the GOP conventions I don't know if it was 92 or 96 where Pat Buchanan got instant stage and made a riproaring speech to the Republican party that seems to have really alienated a lot of undecided voters because it was what they call a redmeat speech. Do you expect to hear a lot of that at this convention?

CARL LUNA: You're going to have Rick Santorum giving a talk you will have a number of again tea party candidates who won and who are up for election you have a lot of conservative base giving talks a big disadvantage Republicans have is prime time coverage is limited and this will make a highlights reel at 10 o'clock or somewhere beyond that and it's not going to be like the old coverage were everybody is watching and goes on my and will build that sort of momentum. Back in 92 9688 people paid more attention to the conventions but because there is no real drama to it when people do is watch true blood and click back to a fast-forward to the convention to see if any gotcha moment occurred.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That leaves me with my final question really want to these impact conventions have on voters?

CARL LUNA: The impact is actually more peripheral than that what you do is fire up your base the people at the conventions go home, the fundraiser start to open up their purses and it gives you momentum going into the fall campaign for your organization and may be useful a few voters if you find something that resonates coming out of the campaign that you hammer on that going into the fall. But that being said like 15 of the 20 elections the guy who said going into the conventions probably wins anyway.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone it tomorrow on Midday Edition we will be speaking to Tony Kfar chair of the Republican Party in San Diego he will be live from the GOP convention in Tampa. I've been speaking with Carl Luna, political science professor at Mesa college. He is a frequent clinical commentator for KPBS and Carl will join us next week four preview of the Democratic convention in Charlotte North Carolina. Thank you very much, Carl.

CARL LUNA: Thank you and I look forward to seeing who the Democrats will nominate.