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Democrats' Move to Center Worries GOP

IF President-elect Clinton builds a "new Democratic Party," as he promised in the campaign, Republicans will find their political recovery even more difficult. This is the assessment of several prominent conservative Republicans gathered at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.

A Democratic Party that moves toward the center is "bad for Republicans, but good for the country," says Rep. Vin Weber (R) of Minnesota, a leading conservative who is retiring this session. "Then our job will be tough," agrees David Keene of the American Conservative Union.

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The conservatives say they will not seek out areas of confrontation with Mr. Clinton and expect to cooperate on some common issues - such as granting the president a line-item veto. They note that Clinton has roots in the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Former Education Secretary William Bennett has co-chaired meetings between these Democrats and conservative organizations and found, he says, "not much disagreement" over issues such as welfare reform and private school choice.

Conservatives are skeptical, however, that Clinton's agenda as president will be as centrist as his campaign. Congressional leaders, Mr. Weber says, "will pull him to the left on every issue."

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