'THE RONALD REAGAN SHOW.'
Imagine this wildly implausible scenario: Stung by the Geraldine Ferraro challenge, Ronald Reagan decides to dump George Bush as his vice-presidential running mate and pick a woman. The contest is on between Sen. Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole. Then a floor fight develops over the GOP platform. Women delegates demand reintroduction of a plank favoring the equal-rights amendment. Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas leads a battle for a plank calling for a tax increase in 1985. And a group of Republican moderates work the floor to gain support for a plank urging adoption of a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty.Skip to next paragraph
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As the platform feud grows acrimonious, some delegates begin to murmur that Mr. Reagan is too far right after all. At which point George Bush, smarting from being shunted aside, decides to make his move. The presidential nomination challenge is on.
All fantasy, of course.
As the Republicans gather in Dallas for their 33rd quadrennial convention Aug. 20-23, the event is so devoid of suspense that the biggest problem for planners is how to inject a bit of zest into what promises to be an uneventful nomination of the party's presidential candidate for 1984. Wanted: drama without conflict
The Democratic convention in San Francisco has made Republicans especially sensitive to their own party show. Contrary to expectations, the Democrats managed to resolve the deep divisions within their party, pull themselves together, and emerge with their troops fired up over an historically unprecedented Democratic ticket. It was not only a good show, but it was exhilarating as well.
Not that Republican planners want any surprises. Four years ago the situation was in some respects like that at the recent Democratic convention. Ronald Reagan was assured the nomination in Detroit, but he needed to broaden his base, fold in the centrist and moderate factions of the GOP, and emerge with a united party. He visited with unemployed Michigan workers. He met with women over the withdrawal of the equal-rights amendment (ERA). He also generated a late-night television drama by considering Gerald Ford to be his running mate. That fell through when Mr. Ford insisted on more executive authority than Reagan was willing to grant.
No such problems exist in 1984. The party has its disparate ideological voices - and a crop of ambitious Republicans with an eye on 1988 - but the priority now is to get President Reagan reelected. The convention objective will be to convey the message of a party unified under the conservative leadership of Ronald Reagan.
''We're as unified now as (the Democratic Party under) FDR was in 1936,'' says a Reagan-Bush campaign official.
While unity is expected to be the hallmark of the orderly, well-programed convention seen on television, the GOP is not without intraparty disagreements that could produce some lively, even discordant moments. There are divisions over the party platform. Moderate Republicans are challenging platform planks on such issues as taxes, arms control, women's rights, and the environment. Right-wing elements, for their part, would like more conservative language on fiscal policy. Party liberals decry one-sidedness
The 106-member platform committee, however, is controlled by young conservatives, and the White House has kept a tight rein on fashioning of the platform. After the Republican Party failed to hold the traditional round of regional platform hearings across the country, a group of GOP liberals and moderates recently held an informal hearing in Washington to take testimony from environmentalists, civil rights activists, nuclear freeze advocates, and others.
''We're used to a more open process,'' says Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. of Maryland.