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Ronald Reagan, in deciding not to seek replacement of Bill Brock as Republican national chairman prior to the November election, may have scored a political triple play -- bolstering party unity, displaying his leadership ability, and impressing GOP moderates with his willingness to compromise.

Conservative elements in the Reagan campaign, led by its chairman, Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada, were pressuring the candidate to replace Brock -- considered less conservative than the candidate and some of his closest backers -- with someone from the Reagan organization. This is the traditional prerogative of a GOP nominee.

But dumping Brock threatened to alienate many Republicans and make Reagan appear under the influence of the GOP right wing. And, considering that Reagan had decided more than a month ago that Brock would stay, the affair was seen as a test of the candidate's leadership over a divided campaign staff.

Prominent GOP leaders, including Sen. Howard Baker and Rep. Jack Kemp, rallied to Brock's support before Reagan announced his decision June 13.

Brock is considered by many to have been a central figure in rebuilding the Republican Party after its wrenching setbacks of the early '70s.m

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