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Voters tuned out, but not turned off

Washington is not staying up nights watching the Republican convention. Much of the nation's capital is not even at home; during August, people whose lives center on politics head for vacation, leaving the city half-empty. Those left are tired of TV special events, and in general find the GOP meeting dull.

''I turn it on, and then I turn to the old movies,'' says one bureaucrat.

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Prior to the President's appearance, the surprise winner of the ''best speech'' award was Gerald Ford, said a number of observers. UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick also got high marks, although some felt her speech sounded like a lecture, to be followed by a pop quiz.

The Republicans' attempt to position themselves as the party of growth and opportunity was noted by many here who watched the proceedings. Younger voters in particular found this theme appealing. One said one of her sharpest convention memories was of an ABC interview with two black, female delegates: ''They talked about appreciating your freedom, and working.''

But in general Washington seems in the mood to take time off from politics and go listen to the Marine Band at the Jefferson Memorial, now that Congress and the President are out of town.

''I've been noting how pleasant things have been around here,'' said a newsletter associate editor. ''The weather's been great.''

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