WELD DEFENDS PRO-CHOICE STANCE

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Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld got away with only a few boos for his pro-choice position on abortion in a convention speech Tuesday night but provoked a Democratic counterattack with his comments on crime and taxes.

"Now, I happen to think that individual freedom should extend to a woman's right to choose," Governor Weld said. "I want the government out of your pocketbook and your bedroom."

More emphatic was the reaction to other parts of the speech from Bill Clinton's Massachusetts campaign branch, which fired off a late-night fax to reporters.

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Headlined, "The Real Republican Record on Taxes and Crime," the response countered Weld's criticisms of Governor Clinton's record on law enforcement and fiscal policy.

The missive was a replay of the criticism Weld got in June when he traveled to Little Rock, Ark., to criticize Clinton's record.

Introducing Weld to the restless convention crowd, Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said, "We all remember how four years ago the liberal Democrats and the liberals in the media were crowing about Michael Dukakis and the Massachusetts miracle. Well we soon learned that the miracle was a mudslide."

Weld picked up the theme, saying that he knew what happened when a government was taken over by "big-spending Democrats."

Beyond his brief defense of his abortion-rights position, Weld said the division within the Republican Party on abortion shouldn't thwart unity on the broader question of re-electing Bush.

"On this point, obviously, we do not agree. But disagreement is not unhealthy," Weld said.

Conservatives disagreed on whether Weld had hurt his future as a national political figure by bucking the party on the abortion issue.

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