IF the Republican Party's divided rank and file agree on anything, it is that the GOP needs a resounding victory this November before it can think about recapturing the White House in 1996.
One question is whether Republican candidates are prepared to do more than blame President Clinton and the Democrats for higher taxes, flagging American leadership abroad, and most of the nation's social ills.
``We need to draw a bright line of distinction between our vision of the future of America and the vision of the Democrats,'' says Sen. Phil Gramm (R) of Texas. ``Nothing that Bill Clinton does will solve that problem for us.''
Conservative leader Jack Kemp, who served under former President Bush as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, goes much further, saying Republicans must appeal to minority voters if the GOP is to become the party of the majority.
``We cannot be just the party of a small government and big prisons,'' Mr. Kemp warns. ``We can't oppose what the Left wants to do as much as we should be proposing what we want to do to lift this country up, to reconcile this nation, to bring it together and to be inclusive in the highest sense of the word.''
Both men spoke over the weekend at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, which convened about 600 delegates from 13 southern states for the first major GOP forum in 1994.
At stake are 36 governorships, 34 Senate races, and scores of seats in the House and individual state legislatures. The GOP is working hard to build grassroots support for the contest. Pentagon spending for chopper trips
THE Pentagon brass defend their hundreds of high-ticket helicopter rides between their offices and Andrews Air Force Base -
14 miles - saying they're in a hurry, they do important jobs, they have secret papers.
The cost for a helicopter trip: $1,000 to $3,000. The cost for the same trip by cab: $22.
The Washington Post reviewed records showing the flights cost taxpayers between $238,000 and $714,000 at a time when President Clinton has promised to reduce the unnecessary use of government aircraft.
The 14-mile trip takes about 25 minutes by car and would cost about $22 by cab, the Post said Sunday. Had the 238 trips been by auto, the bill would have been about $5,200.
Pentagon officials defended the helicopter trips.
``I think it's a cost-effective use to move those high-level folks,'' said Air Force Lt. Col. Temple Black, spokesman for Andrews. ``Their schedules are real tight and the decisions they make are impacting national policy.''