PINEHURST, N.C. — WITH their political future clouded by a grim economic outlook, Republican governors gathered here Sunday for the first major party meetings since last month's disappointing elections. At this Southern ``golf capital'' - a distinctive resort area with 30 championship golf courses - governors will be discussing party and Bush administration policies on drugs and the environment.
Following public sessions with Vice President Dan Quayle, Housing Secretary Jack Kemp, and ex-drug czar and incoming Republican national chairman William Bennett, private discussions are expected to focus on the future.
With the 1992 presidential election less than two years away, it is crossroads time for Republicans as President Bush and Republicans decide their future course.
Bush is being asked by aides to outline an ambitious new agenda of free-enterprise goals in his State of the Union address next month in a time of economic and political uncertainty.
The US economy - booming for much of the 10 years of Republican White House control - has skidded into a serious downturn, putting Republicans on the defensive against Democratic assaults that a ``Republican recession'' already exists.
Polls also show Americans worried over the possibility of a war in the Gulf. The fears have possibly been fed by Democratic accusations that the administration has not given economic sanctions against Iraq enough time to work.
Republicans looking for direction are still moping over last month's congressional and state election losses, amid fears that losses in 1992 could increase if the country is in a recession.
``It could be devastating if there is still a recession,'' said one Republican source here.
While Bush has remained one of the most popular presidents since World War II, his overall approval rating slipped during a bruising budget and tax battle in Congress in October after he reversed his ``no new taxes'' policy.
Although there are no Republicans likely to beat Bush for renomination to a second term in 1992, there have been rumblings that he may face opposition - especially from conservatives upset with his tax reversal.