Politics & Government

Workhorse Burr speaks for 3 minutes

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina had his big moment in the Republican National Convention spotlight Monday afternoon, but the nation's eyes were turned elsewhere.

Burr spoke for some three minutes to rowdy cheering from his home-state delegation, just as Hurricane Gustav was stealing most of the public attention.

So it goes for Burr, considered a hard-working policy wonk and yet relatively unknown outside North Carolina and insider GOP circles.

He has backed John McCain since the early days of this campaign. Still, he wasn't rewarded with a prime-time speaking slot at this week's convention or a real shot at the vice presidency.

Instead, Burr was named in May to be a co-chairman of the GOP platform committee, a deep-in-the-weeds role that meant long hours, back-room diplomacy and very little glamour. It was his job to shepherd the document laying out Republican principles without letting controversy spill into the press.

Though the platform role offers no glitz, political observers say it underscores McCain's and other Republican leaders' trust in North Carolina's junior senator.

“It's an important honor,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance at the Brookings Institute. “It means (Burr) is trusted with sensitive party issues.”

This convention could still be Burr's biggest chance yet for national exposure. The freshman senator is a close friend to McCain, whom he endorsed in March 2007. Burr stuck with McCain as his campaign crumbled last summer.

With that loyalty, his relative youth (he's 52) and his ability to work well with others, some say he could have a strong future in the party.

How much of a launching pad is the platform committee chairmanship?

U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte had the role eight years ago, but said it hasn't necessarily raised her profile.

Still, Burr has enjoyed other perks this week as well. He and his wife, Brooke, are staying at the Hilton hotel with McCain and the rest of his entourage in downtown Minneapolis.

Later in the week, he is scheduled to escort convention chairman U.S. Rep. John Boehner, the House minority leader, to the stage.

“If he wants to be in the administration, he can do what he wants,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said.

Burr said he'll do anything McCain asks, as long as he can stay in the Senate. “Most of the things I'm passionate about don't happen in the executive branch,” Burr said.

Burr rose early Monday to appear on a C-SPAN call-in show when much of the nation was still in bed enjoying a Labor Day holiday. He'll do more media this week, he said, along with whatever else his friend needs.