WASHINGTON, July 16 -- The woman tapped to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention said Tuesday she did not expect her support for abortion rights to be an issue at the gathering next month in San Diego. Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., told reporters on Capitol Hill that she did not think the powerful anti-abortion wing in the Republican Party would have a problem with her delivering the high-profile speech. 'I certainly hope not and I don't anticipate it as such,' she said. 'I think that as a party, we have gone a long way under the leadership of Bob Dole in dealing with this issue.' Molinari indicated, however, that she would not address the divisive issue in her speech. She said her speech would likely focus on the things that draw the party together, such as welfare reform and tax cuts. 'I think I speak for both the pro-life and pro-choice side of the Republican (Party), stating that we share 99 percent of an agenda,' she said. 'I fought long and hard as a pro-choice advocate,' Molinari added. 'The convention is a time to rally around the important positions, and the character and integrity of a man like Bob Dole.' The congresswoman said she did not understand why there was 'such a fixation' on the abortion issue. She noted that there was almost no pressure on abortion opponents in the Democratic Party to speak out against their party's pro-choice plank. Dole's announcement that Molinari would deliver the keynote address was met with lukewarm response from leading conservatives.
Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, said her selection could be perceived as 'the senator moving in the wrong direction for a crucial vice-presidential selection.' 'While we understand Senator Dole's desire to close the gender gap, we stress that he must remain sensitive and committed to the needs of social conservatives, who could turn out in record numbers in November, and provide him with the margin of victory,' Reed's statement said. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan congratulated Molinari. 'While we disagree, deeply, over the issues of life and social policy, Susan is an articulate, passionate voice inside our great and diverse party, against the high taxes, big-government policies of the national Democrats,' said Buchanan, who challenged Dole for the GOP nomination. 'We wish her all the best, and look forward to her address in San Diego,' he said. Molinari, meanwhile, said she was going through a 'combination of exhaustion and jubilation' one day after Dole's announcement. 'Obviously I am tremendously honored to have been given this opportunity to talk about the man that I know and have tremendous respect for, Bob Dole,' she said. Adding to her nervousness and the anticipation was 'non-compliance' by her 2-month-old daughter, Susan Ruby Paxon, she said. Molinari's husband is also a congressman -- Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., and Ruby made history in May by being the first child to be born of two sitting members of Congress. While not addressing polls that show Dole lags far behind Clinton in polls of women voters, Molinari acknowledged her decision could help bridge the gender gap. She said she thought she was chosen because of the 'enthusiasm' she has about the future. 'But maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have a 2- month-old,' she said. 'That I believe more strongly that there are some generations that can withstand another election of Bill Clinton, but my daughter can't.' Molinari, 38, had been viewed as a potential running mate for Dole. She holds the fifth highest leadership position in the House, as vice chairman of the Republican Conference, and is one of the most visible and vocal women in Congress. Molinari was 32 when picked in a special election in March 1990 to fill her father Guy Molinari's seat in Congress. Molinari represents the New York City borough of Staten Island.