Onward Christian Politicians

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Christian Coalition has tapped two naturals to follow Ralph Reed: Randy Tate, a 1994 Gingrich House soldier, will replace Reed as director, and former Reagan Cabinet member Don Hodel will assume Pat Robertson's post as president. The message: to thine own self be true. "The last shred of the non-partisan fig leaf has been destroyed," says TIME's Laurence Barrett. "Both of these guys are even more partisan, and more explicitly so, than Reed." Putting Reed's torch in such hands suggests the coalition is ready to concentrate on its natural constituency -- white, Protestant, conservative Republicans -- and forget overtures across political and ethnic lines. But preaching exclusively to the choir could prove limiting when the 1998 Congressional elections roll around. Certainly Tate, who pushed English-as-an-official-language legislation and immigration crackdowns while in office, is not the man to extend Reed's tentative forays into untapped black and Hispanic communities. At 1.8 million members and more than 1,900 chapters nationwide, the coalition still has considerable influence to sell to donors. But the days of exponential growth that the Coalition owed to the telegenic, flesh-pressing Reed look to be over. Judging from the press conference, says Barrett, don't look for Tate or Hodel to be gracing any magazine covers. "Neither of these two can hold a candle to Reed as a public spokesman," says Barrett. "They're not poster boys."