ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republicans rebuffed their certain nominee Monday by endorsing a platform that goes further than John McCain in opposition to abortion rights.
Yet in a pair of back-to-back votes on the opening day of their national convention, the 2,400 delegates yielded to McCain's desire to keep New Hampshire's presidential primary first in the nation.
Republican National Chairman Robert "Mike" Duncan used a quick gavel to adopt a platform unconditionally declaring the party's opposition to abortion. His resounding crack of the gavel overshadowed shouts of "no" when Duncan made a perfunctory call for objections.
The GOP document, which is nonbinding, does not provide exceptions allowing abortion in cases of rape, incest or where a mother's life would be in danger — all favored by McCain. The Arizona senator's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, opposes abortion in all cases, consistent with the platform.
The votes came the same day that Palin and her husband, Todd, revealed that their unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant. The couple said their daughter planned to marry the baby's father and keep the child.
During his 2000 campaign, McCain argued for loosening the convention platform to include abortion exceptions. That triggered a backlash among social conservatives, who reared up again in recent weeks amid word McCain might be considering a running mate favoring abortion rights.
In a May interview being published in the October issue of Glamour magazine, McCain reiterated his support for the exceptions.
"My position has always been: exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother," the senator said.
When asked if he would encourage the party to include them in the platform, he replied, "Yes," adding: "And by the way, I think that's the view of most people, that rape, incest, the life of the mother are issues that have to be considered."
In a subsequent July 30 interview with Glamour, McCain said he had "not gotten into the platform discussions."
During their meeting last week in Denver, Democrats dropped Clinton-era language saying abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." Democratic nominee Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech: "We may not agree on abortion but surely we can agree on reducing unwanted pregnancies in this country."
Moments before the platform vote, delegates voted overwhelmingly to ban states other than Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina from holding their 2012 primary or caucus votes before the first Tuesday in March. Those three states traditionally kick off the nominating process, but they were challenged this year by other states that moved up on the calendar.
Under the binding rule adopted Monday, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina cannot hold their own votes before the first Tuesday of February 2012. This year, Iowa held its caucuses on Jan. 3, and New Hampshire and South Carolina held their primaries on Jan. 8 and Jan. 19, respectively.
McCain largely skipped the Iowa caucuses during his 2000 and 2008 campaigns, but he won New Hampshire's primary during both of those campaigns. He cemented a political comeback this year by winning in South Carolina after suffering a bitter defeat to George W. Bush there in the 2000 primary.
The senator argued for preserving Iowa and New Hampshire's grassroots campaigns, a position cheered by their delegates.
"It pushes back the calendar and it slows it down — and that's a big gift for us," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire delegate and member of the convention's Credentials Committee.
In another part of the platform focuse on immigration, the party calls for a border fence and English as the country's official language. On climate change, it acknowledges a human role in increased carbon emissions but advocates environmental policies that are "global in nature."
The plank on drilling highlights another split between McCain and Palin. While it declares the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge should not be put off-limits to drilling permanently, it did not call for immediate drilling there. McCain opposes drilling in the refuge, while Palin favors it.