Local Party Leaders on Miller

There's a political storm raging. Did you hear Democratic Georgia senator Zell Miller's keynote speech at the Republican National Convention? It surprised many, especially considering 12 years ago Miller took the stage at the Democratic National Convention and sharply criticized former President Bush in his support of Bill Clinton.

Then just three years ago, he was a staunch supporter of John Kerry. But all that's changed now.

Today we spoke with area leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Republicans are saying they couldn't be happier with such a seasoned politician being on their side, while many Democrats say Sen. Miller no longer has the right to call himself a Democrat.

The self-proclaimed "Democrat for life" has made no secret about being disappointed in his party, and about presidential nominee John Kerry.

"For more than 20 years, on every one of the great issues of freedom, John Kerry has been wrong and more weak and wobbly than any other national figure," Miller said in his address.

"He's embarrassing us," said Joe Steffen, vice chair of the Chatham County Democratic Party. He says Sen. Miller's speech at the RNC was nothing short of a huge disappointment to his party. "We're just mystified by him continuing to call himself a Democrat and acting like a Republican."

Last night, Sen. Miller enthusiastically endorsed President Bush's reelection, claiming the Democratic party had left him years ago. This afternoon at the party's local headquarters, Republicans were still talking about the powerful speech the senator made. The speech they hope will sway conservative Democrats to give their vote to President Bush.

"Great tribute to the man and his conviction that he's man enough to stand up," said local party chairman Jerry Loupee. "And he's taken a lot of criticism from his party and we applaud him."

President Bush will accept his party's nomination tonight at the Republican National Convention and then make one of the most important speeches of his life.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com