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CHRISTIAN COALITION'S CYBER-TACTICS : ACTIVISTS CAN OUTPACE REST OF GOP CONVENTION WITH INSTANT LINKS.

Byline: Carey Goldberg The New York Times

They have a ``war room.'' They have ``rapid response capability.'' They have 102 crack infantry whips. And best of all, leaders of the Christian Coalition say, they have the technological weapons - a hot new wireless, digital paging system - to give them tactical superiority at the Republican National Convention here.

``Our goal was to have the largest number of religious conservatives ever on the floor of a national convention,'' said Ralph Reed, executive director of the coalition, ``and to have those delegates linked in a sophisticated high-tech communications system that would be real time and instantaneous.''

The system was still being field-tested Thursday as the Republicans got ready to nominate Bob Dole for president. But it did appear that while other party factions make do next week with the usual frenzy of scampering runners and semaphoric hand signals, the Christian Coalition's floor whips will have an advantage with their hand-held computers in constant contact with a command center.

The whips' small computers, called personal digital assistants, use a new wireless frequency recently approved by the Federal Communications Commission and can get around the traffic jams created by conventional cellular phones. The system will use software specifically designed for the coalition.

The technical concept is simple enough, but it appears that no other group came up with it, at least not in time to put it in motion.

``I don't think anyone was thinking as far ahead or on this scale of planning,'' Reed said.

The coalition's planning and commitment of resources to next week's convention has, in fact, been so far ahead and on such a scale that the results are reflected in much more than technology. The group labored intensively at state conventions to get its delegates elected - like-minded opponents of abortion as well as its own members and staff assistants - and has budgeted about $750,000 for its overall convention efforts, Reed said.

Partly because of pre-convention maneuvering, too, the Platform Committee of the convention has a far greater proportion of abortion opponents than does the Republican Party at large.

Still, all this technological girding for battle may go unused because there may not be any dispute on the convention floor requiring such high-tech weapons. Party leaders found a way to avoid a floor fight over abortion with their agreement Wednesday to include an appendix to the platform that gives the minority view supporting abortion rights. And it appears that Dole will choose a running mate who opposes abortion.

But just in case, the technological system is ready, and Christian Coalition officials are eager to put it through its paces. Reed, sitting in the coalition's temporary headquarters here, said that at this convention he would be among the delegates for the first time.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 9, 1996
Words:461
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