On with Reagan's counterrevolution

The battle cry of this GOP convention is ''We shall continue.'' Republican National Committee chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. told reporters that this is the basis of the futuristic theme his party is now stressing. ''Economic recovery will continue,'' he says. ''Patriotism ... will continue. That's what we will tell the voters.''

Congressman Richard Cheney (R) of Wyoming underscores what Republicans assembled here in Dallas are not going to talk about if they can help it: ''We fought for a balanced budget for 40 years - and lost.'' This highly regarded Republican says, ''But no more.'' So the thrust of this convention is to follow President Reagan's lead. He says no more taxes if he can avoid it. The delegates say, ''Wonderful!'' And when Mr. Reagan says to soft-pedal budget-balancing and rely on the stimulated economy to make inroads on the deficit, the delegates are going along with their leader.

Anyone who talks to Republicans these days knows that the party pretty much belongs to Ronald Reagan. It isn't that the President exercises an iron control. It's more that a popular, personable leader has won the affection and the allegiance of party workers and GOP rank and file from coast to coast.

Reagan supporters like what they see - what they perceive to be a President who has already made a ''difference'' in the direction of the nation. They are convinced that he has put in place a counterrevolution against what was begun by Franklin Roosevelt.

The consensus among delegates is to back a campaign theme that will say, ''Let us continue the Reagan counterrevolution: Let us continue to cut federal spending and to reduce the role of federal government in the lives of all Americans.'' This doesn't mean that the Republicans don't want to balance the budget. Not at all. They say that this is actually a conservative theme and that Walter Mondale has no right to try to take it over.

But with an eye on the rebounding economy, Republicans are content to let Reagan carry on with an approach that has lessened the burden of taxes on most of them while, at the same time, slashing inflation to a trickle and igniting a near-boom. They think they have the winning issue - how well things are going right now. They are convinced that Mr. Mondale cannot win by telling people the economy will fall apart in the future unless they follow his lead.

Republicans could - and probably will - cite the CBS/New York Times poll which shows that 55 percent of those polled said the country was better off now than it was four years ago, and 54 percent said they were personally better off.

As Richard Cheney emphasizes, the Republicans think that if the Democrats make a balanced budget the centerpiece of their campaign, as Mondale seems to be doing, it will be a losing issue for Mondale. True, Reagan talked about such a goal when he ran in 1980. But his central theme was to get the country moving again, which economic indicators show he has accomplished.

Mondale cannot tell the voters he can rescue it from economic doldrums, since it simply isn't true. All he can allege is that the upturn has not helped the poor and disadvantaged. And he can further say, as he does, that unless the country adopts a big Mondale-sponsored tax increase, the economy will soon fall apart.

Republicans are willing to let Mondale have this argument. But they are convinced that in the long run the voters will back a President who can point to a large measure of success in the economic arena while, at the same time, he can pledge:

''We will continue to cut the fat out of domestic programs. And we won't increase taxes unless we finally find that this is necessary.''

So it is that the Republicans seem more than willing to let the Reagan years and his record speak for themselves. ''Let us continue'' was a Lyndon Johnson theme, which he made on taking over the presidency right after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It is also the theme of this convention - and of this President.

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