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Republicans wrestle with party values, platform

Republicans wrestle with party values, platform

California Republicans are headed for a showdown over the direction of the party, which could highlight national schisms over gay rights, gun control, and abortion.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants the state Republican Party platform, the party's statement of core values, boiled down to as little as a single page focusing on lowering taxes, limiting the size of government, and building a strong national defense. A centrist, the actor-turned-governor describes himself as a "post-partisan" who wants to bridge the political divide that often leaves the state capitol in Sacramento legislatively gridlocked.

But some conservatives see his move as an attempt to undercut party positions on everything from traditional marriage to opposition to abortion rights.

"There's a move afoot to make sure the Republican Party stands for nothing," said Michael Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly.

It's "a direct assault on Republican Party principles," Spence said. "They think they can reduce the party to a few lines or sound bites."

State party members will begin work on a new platform later this week at a convention in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs.

Schwarzenegger is circulating a letter, also signed by Republican leaders in the legislature, that says the platform should be distilled to a page or two of concise principles echoing those held by Ronald Reagan.

The current state platform runs about a dozen pages and opposes same-sex marriage and domestic-partner benefits; calls for overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion; and rejects gun registration.

The governor's letter makes no mention of those issues.

"We have found long recitations of detailed policy statements are unwieldy, hard to follow, and for the most part unread by the very people we want to share our core beliefs with," the letter said.

Republican moderates in the state have long argued that the party needs to shift to the political middle or risk becoming an afterthought in a state known for its increasingly diverse population and Democratic leanings. The legislature, for example, is firmly in Democratic hands.

Schwarzenegger's reelection last year was largely attributed to his move to the political middle, a decision that created a rift with the Republican right wing.

The state's former GOP chairman, "Duf" Sundheim, is circulating a broadly worded two-page platform that appears to be in line with the governor's goals. It largely avoids references to social issues, instead stressing a strong military, support for balanced budgets, and improved education. (Michael R. Blood, AP)

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