Lurch to the Center

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Bob Dole is on a crusade to widen the appeal of the Republican Party, and he doesn't care whose toes he steps on to get there. "Dole has calculated that he must move farther toward the center," says TIME's Jeffrey Birnbaum. "He is purposefully trying to upset the conservative base to appeal to the moderate middle and he thinks he can afford to do so." Dole has enraged the NRA by reneging on a pledge to repeal the assault weapons ban. The organization, which claims 3 million members, says it will now concentrate its efforts on Senate and congressional races. Dole has also upset Ralph Reed, the influential executive director of the Christian Coalition, by supporting the GOP's decision not to allow conservative Pat Buchanan to address the convention in San Diego. Buchanan, who is still officially in the running, is vowing to speak on the sidewalk if not permitted into the convention hall. Birnbaum notes that while Dole might have upset Reed, the Christian Coalition is not threatening a walkout: "Most would still vote for Dole because the alternative, to them, is even worse." Dole began his appeal to moderates last week, first by selecting pro-choice Representative Susan Molinari as keynote speaker and then persuading retired (and pro-choice) General Colin Powell to address the convention on opening night. -- Lamia Abu-Haidar