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Keynote talks rally the troops

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Given that desire, Richards says hers will not be a ``speech of attack.'' Still, it wouldn't be a Richards speech if it didn't include a few digs at the Reagan administration and Mr. Reagan's would-be heir, George Bush.

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Tough rhetoric

In a speech before the Texas Democratic Party in June, Richards told the story of an admiral who refuses to change his ship's course to avoid what he mistakes in the fog to be another ship. It turns out to be a lighthouse.

Comparing that ship to the Reagan-Bush administration, which she said was ``the most anti-environmental, anti-labor, anti-civil rights, anti-middle class, anti-woman, anti-child government in our modern history,'' Richards added, ``The fog is lifting and Admiral Bush is about to have a close encounter with a Democratic lighthouse. It is finally bedtime for Bonzo.''

Richards, credited with having modernized the state's treasury and managing state funds with savvy investment decisions, calls herself a ``conservative when it comes to the taxpayers' dollars.'' And she bristles at suggestions that voters might perceive the Democratic ticket as liberal.

``It seems dishonest to say that the Democrats or Mike Dukakis are big spenders when we've had eight years in which we borrowed and spent, borrowed and spent, and borrowed and spent some more, like there's some big charge account in the sky. Ronald Reagan is not going to pay for that, but my granddaughter will.''

Importance of Texas

Richards, whose national speaking experience includes seconding Walter Mondale's nomination in 1984, says no one told her why she was picked. But she has a few guesses: She is a woman, when polls show women more favorable than men to a Democratic president; she has worked with and endorsed Mr. Dukakis; and she is a Southerner, more specifically a Texan.

``In my conversation with [Democratic Party chairman] Paul Kirk, we didn't get into how the decision was made, or why I was chosen,'' she says. ``But the message is very clear that Michael Dukakis thinks Texas is important.'' No Democrat has ever won the White House without taking Texas.

With the advent of the prime-time keynoter, parties have selected ``someone who speaks especially to a section of the voting population they are trying to attract,'' says Ruth Morgan, a specialist on the presidency at Southern Methodist University. ``The Democrats have [the benefit of] the gender gap, and Dukakis has heightened that with the selection of Ann Richards.''

Richards also says she was given no guidelines for the speech, although Governor Cuomo did call and advise her to ``just be yourself.'' The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has assembled a stable of speech writers and coaches to assist all speakers.

In seeking ideas, Richards has consulted with ``friends and people I respect,'' including Barbara Jordan; Liz Carpenter, former press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson; and representatives of both the Dukakis and Jesse Jackson campaigns.

Reflecting back on the noisy crowd that buzzed away during her speech for Mr. Mondale, she hopes that this year is different.

``I hope this time I might have a shot at a little more attention,'' she says. ``For the keynote, I believe they dim the lights.''

Convention Highlights Monday Opening ceremonies Keynote speech: Ann Richards, Texas state treasurer Speakers include: Former President Jimmy Carter

Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young Tuesday Platform Committee report and platform debate Convention chairman's speech: Rep. Jim Wright (Texas) Speakers include: The Rev. Jesse Jackson

Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) Wednesday Presidential nomination and balloting Speakers include: Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles

Former Kentucky Gov. Martha Lane Collins

Former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (N.Y.)

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) Thursday Vice-presidential nomination and balloting Candidates' acceptance speeches Speakers include: Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Richard Arrington

Sen. Bill Bradley (N.J.)