For all the talk of displeasure on the political right with the rising role of moderates in the Republican Party, social conservatives interviewed at the Republican National Convention say they feel empowered, in control and jubilant about the state of the GOP.
"We got a mole in the White House: George Bush," says Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, speaking over the din of a jazz quintet, only minutes before being honored by the Republican National Coalition for Life.
"We believe in the inherent dignity, beauty, sanctity of each and every life, no matter what its age and where it located," the leading conservative senator explains, his spinach salad untouched.
Surrounded by heavy security at Tavern on the Green, on the western edge of Central Park, social conservative leaders were celebrating.
Wine spritzers poured in the restaurant's garden as conservatives from Gary Bauer to Ann Coulter proclaimed that President Bush is one of them. Those attending agreed that pro-abortion rights and pro-gay rights speakers like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudolph Giuliani were welcome in the party.
Quoting a "Reagan philosophy," Brownback says, "If a guy agrees with you 80 percent of the time he's not your enemy, he's your friend."
To Brownback and Bauer, moderates are acceptable as long as they don't cross hairs publicly with the party platform.
"None of them talked about abortion," says Bauer, as guests request pictures with the former presidential candidate and onetime head of the influential Family Research Council.
"If they would have, they would have been booed off the stage," Bauer adds. "There is no way anyone is going to get the Republican presidential nomination who is not pro-life, against same-sex marriage and a cultural conservative."
The GOP platform, adopted at the convention on Monday, supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and states the party's fervent opposition to abortion. President Bush agrees with both stances, which are the two prevailing issues for evangelical Christian Republicans.
In suits and summer dresses, the more than 500 attending the $125-per-person luncheon were nearly giddy, as they toasted their leaders over barbecued chicken and mashed potatoes.
"That doesn't even cover lunch," says event organizer Colleen Parro of Texas, director of the anti-abortion advocacy group Coalition for Life.
Parro agrees with Bauer that Schwarzenegger and Giuliani will have to change their positions on abortion and same-sex unions if they ever want to run on a national Republican ticket.
"I will say they will meet the same fate that former California Gov. Pete Wilson and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania met in 1976," Parro says. "They lasted about two months because they don't represent the pro-life, the pro-family values of the majority or Republican voters."
As the priest performed the invocation prior to lunch and says, "political loyalty does not have to mean disloyalty" to God, Wisconsin delegate Laurie Forcier bowed her head and whispered, "Yes."
"The battle right now is definitely with assuring that the courts are not the ones making the decisions, but really the people," she explains, after the attendees finished reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the national anthem.
"The protection of marriage happened not because Republicans or conservatives are seeking that, but it's because of the Massachusetts ruling that was really forced upon our nation," she continues, adding that "judicial tyranny" must end.
As Brownback took the podium, he asked "one thing" of those attending: Do all they can to reelect President Bush. Though the president has not yet had the opportunity to appoint Supreme Court justices, it is likely that the next four years will bring at least two openings.
Between the opportunity to appoint a solidly conservative Supreme Court and the battle over banning same-sex marriage, there is no shortage of urgency among the right wing of the Republican Party.
Ann Coulter, however, says social conservatives are not to the right of the rest of the GOP.
"There is no division. This is a pro-life party," the conservative author and television personality says.
"If Giuliani wants to have a national ambition, and I'm a big fan of his, he's going to have to become pro-life if he wants to run for president. No one ever believed he was pro-choice anyway - he's a Catholic from Queens," she says, adding, "Americans understand that Manhattan is the Soviet Union."
In a purple dress and black high heels, Coulter was willing to break ranks with the president on some issues.
"I don't like the amnesty for illegal [aliens]... the largest entitlement program in 50 years is the prescription drug program… campaign finance reform," she says. "But what are you going to do," she says, throwing up her arms, "vote for the Treason Party?"
President Bush "is not our ideal," she says, but adds that "no human can be the ideal unless he's Jesus Christ." And, for Coulter, "Reagan was as close to Jesus Christ as we got."
She then autographs a pamphlet and explains that this Republican Party is the party of Reagan and Bush, not Schwarzenegger. "We are going to be banning gay marriage before we allow foreigners to be president."
By David Paul Kuhn