Conservative GOP Interests Pledge Unity after San Diego

Article excerpt

Conservative Republican activists yesterday dismissed their party's bitter primary disputes and expressed confidence that the GOP will unite to defeat a common enemy, President Clinton.

As Sen. Bob Dole continued to show strength in Tuesday's primaries in his bid for the GOP nomination, grass-roots conservative leaders said they expected to be able to support him enthusiastically if he is the party's nominee.

They acknowledge that the primary battles between Mr. Dole and chief rivals Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes have been especially contentious and have raised issues such as trade prtectionism that have divided the party.

Certainly Mr. Dole will not coast to the nomination.

Less than 24 hours after being shut out in the eight-primary "Junior Tuesday," Mr. Buchanan kept up his attack on the front-runner, calling him "bereft of ideas," questioning his commitment to the anti-abortion cause and suggesting he had helped ship U.S. jobs overseas by supporting global trade deals.

The smoldering dispute between Mr. Buchanan and one of Mr. Dole's top Senate supporters, Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, also threatens to spoil what is expected to be a Dole victory in today's New York primary.

Mr. D'Amato, New York's junior senator, has said Mr. Buchanan should have "as little role as possible" in the GOP convention this August, saying it would ill serve the party to have "a bunch of ayatollahs . . . telling us what we're going to believe and what we're not going to believe."

In response, Mr. Buchanan has described Mr. D'Amato as "ethically challenged," referring to his previous scrapes with the Senate Ethics Committee.

At the same time, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp endorsed Mr. Forbes, underscoring Mr. Dole's often shaky relationship with the party's Reaganite supply-siders.

Still, conservative leaders are convinced that in the end they will bring together the old Reagan coalition of social and economic conservatives that controlled the presidency for 12 years before Mr. Clinton recaptured the White House in 1992.

GOP leaders and grass-roots strategists were virtually unanimous that when the GOP meets in San Diego in August to select its nominee, the party's disparate factions, interest groups and constituencies will rally around their standard-bearer to defeat Mr. …