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Anti-Abortion Speaker Kept From Podium

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey finally got to speak during a Democratic National Convention.

But the anti-abortion Democrat said his piece Monday in a cramped, crowded conference room far from the convention hall podium where he had hoped to speak this week, just like four years ago.

“For the second time in just four years, my request fell on deaf ears,” Casey said, blaming Democratic Party leaders.

Casey tried to speak in 1992, but senior Democrats said they rejected his request because he hadn’t endorsed Bill Clinton. Casey, who left office two years ago, accused them of trying to muzzle him.

In recent weeks, Casey and party officials have wrangled over the possibility of his speaking in Chicago. Casey said he would speak under the right circumstances; officials said he ignored their telephone calls.

Casey said Monday he wrote President Clinton on Aug. 16 seeking a meeting to discuss a convention speech on abortion but received no response to the letter or a previous communication with the Clinton camp.

Ann Lewis, deputy manager of Clinton’s campaign, said she was unaware of Casey’s attempts to contact the president. She also said a request to speak would have been too late if it were made in the last few weeks.

Clinton leads in polls

Two national polls released Monday found President Clinton with a sizable lead over Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole among registered voters as the Democratic National Convention got under way:

Clinton was supported by 49 percent, Dole by 32 percent and Reform Party nominee Ross Perot by 8 percent in a sampling of 775 registered voters Wednesday through Sunday for the PoliticsNow Internet site by ICR Survey Research Group. (The poll has a margin for error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.)

An ABC News nightly tracking poll of 1,008 registered voters found 47 percent backing Clinton, 38 percent Dole and 9 percent Perot, no change from results released Sunday. (The poll has a margin for error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

Oldest delegate

Velma Jeter was born in 1903, the daughter of a white Jewish father and black mother in New Iberia, La.

She says she has been battling for civil rights all of her life.

“I knew how to fight, and I’ve fought for our equal rights in every nook and cranny,” Jeter said Monday, attending what she recollects to be her seventh Democratic convention, give or take a few.

At a news briefing, party leaders introduced Jeter, 93, of Orange, Texas, as the oldest of the 4,289 delegates. Towering over the diminutive Jeter was the youngest delegate, 6-foot-4-inch Paul Kraus, 17, of Dubuque, Iowa.

Somehow, it’s just not the same

One speaker denounced catching dolphins in tuna nets. Another railed against McDonald’s restaurants. But mostly, protesters gathered for the Democratic National Convention are saving their energy.

Nearly 100 reporters, pens in hand and cameras ready, waited Monday morning at Grant Park, site of rioting during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and across the street from the Hilton Hotel where many delegates stayed then and now.

They waited.

And waited.

Fifty-five minutes late, the Earth Island Institute and US McLibel Support Campaign arrived.

All two of them.

With only five minutes left of their scheduled 60-minute protest, they decided to join the Chicago People’s Convention Coalition up next. That made for eight people on stage.

Dolphins are being caught in tuna nets, complained one.

Another: “President Clinton is a Nazi!”

A third asserted that McDonald’s Corp. is an evil empire.

“Kind of boring, isn’t it?” said Chicago police Deputy Chief Ronald Jablon, standing by in case of trouble. “Your people just aren’t the same as they were in ‘68.”