The year was 1964, and Gary Bauer had just finished high school in Newport, Ky. Ronald Reagan was speaking on television, and the young Mr. Bauer turned to his father and said, "That guy's gonna be president someday, and I'm gonna work for him in the White House."
"My father said, 'You're nuts,' " Bauer recalls. "But he was able to visit me in my West Wing office a few years before he passed away."
Gary Bauer, former chief of domestic policy for President Reagan and head of his own conservative activist empire, has always known exactly what he wants.
Now, after 10 years leading the Family Research Council - an increasingly influential think tank and lobbying group - Bauer can finally stake a claim on a long-held goal: to be the top spokesman for religious conservatives.
He has lobbied successfully to keep the anti-abortion plank in the GOP platform. He made a high-profile alliance with Democrats - and went toe-to-toe against Henry Kissinger to fight for human rights in China.
He's formed a new political-action committee, which is already spending six-figure sums in congressional races, much to the dismay of moderate Republicans.
It also hasn't hurt Bauer that his sometime rival, the media-savvy Ralph Reed, has left the leadership of the Christian Coalition, and that Mr. Reed's successors have yet to emerge as national figures. "Gary Bauer's star is very much on the rise," says Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Bauer opponent who gives the man credit for doing his homework and sticking to his principles.
Bauer doesn't always get what he wants. Last week, his favored candidate lost a hotly contested congressional race in California. But even in defeat, Bauer wins. He and his anti-abortion agenda get attention, and establishment Republicans scurry to make sure Bauer doesn't strike again by defeating more moderate party members in coming primary races.
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