Prominent conservative activists were finishing a two-day meeting on how to make the GOP the true majority party when agents of the Bush political apparatus, politely but effectively, cooled the enthusiasm. George Bush's operatives made clear that the new man in the White House was there to govern first and play politics later -- reform, not revolutionize. Improving Republican performance among women voters was the overriding political goal. That summation buttressed fears expressed by conservatives during the conference that an attack on Speaker Jim Wright might conflict with the president's agenda. Thus a meeting intended to harmonize conservative political goals ended up highlighting a Republican problem for the Bush era. The confrontation required for party realignment may be incompatible with the bipartisanship proclaimed by the new president. The conference was called by Rep. Newt Gingrich, along with political consultants Eddie Mahe and Joe Gaylord, to map plans for extending Republican success at the presidential level down to state legislatures by 1992. Gingrich, who wants to label Republicans the Party of Reform and Democrats the Party of Corruption, talked about the drug issue. His ally and colleague, Rep. Vin Weber, stressed abortion. The consensus was realignment from the Right, with plenty of confrontation. But New Right activist Paul Weyrich sounded a cautionary note. Is it possible for you to trash the speaker as a vessel of corruption while the president is inviting him to Camp David (an invitation withdrawn because of Bush's cold)? How does one reconcile these differences? Gingrich replied that it was simply a matter of operating on two different tracks. Weyrich later renewed his question, and many of the 40 or so activists attending were not satisfied by the response. Nevertheless, the mood of the meeting was upbeat until the summation from James Pinkerton and Mary Matalin, two of the brightest, most competent political operatives in the 1988 Bush-for-President campaign. Pinkerton is now a domestic policy adviser in the White House; Matalin is chief of staff at the Republican National Committee. Pinkerton wanted everyone to understand clearly that this administration intends to ''govern.'' That implied to his audience that he had ruled out any realignment strategy making it harder for Bush to cut deals. He made equally clear that though the Bush team is all for ''reform,'' it is not for ''revolution.'' Furthermore, Pinkerton specifically fixed his notion of reform only a few degrees from the status quo. As for realignment, the White House aide set a goal -- but surely not the one pondered by Gingrich, Weyrich and most others present. Pinkerton expressed desire to win back voters in the Pacific Northwest who once were Republicans but have been voting Democratic and who supported Michael Dukakis last year. To those present, that identified moderate, white, upper-middle-class voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. Matalin reinforced that surmise when she said that Bush's emphasis on education and the environment should help Republicans gain among blacks, the young and women. Particularly women, to judge from her emphasis. ''All is lost,'' one conference participant scribbled in a note passed to the conservative sitting next to him. That half-serious comment reflected suspicion that the Bush campaign's cultural themes -- the Pledge of Allegiance and convict furloughs -- were tactical expediency rather than strategic planning. That was confirmed a few days later in an interview with us on CNN by Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater, who as Bush's national campaign manager brilliantly orchestrated the cultural themes last year. In the interview, he shied away from Gingrich's corruption issue, suggesting it works ''better'' in individual campaigns than ''across the board.'' He declined to take a swipe at Speaker Wright or say he deserves a spanking, or something worse, from the House Ethics Committee. ''I have had no direction from the White House not to criticize {congressional Democrats},'' Atwater told us. But he hardly needs written instructions to see what's up. The preferred tone is bipartisanship, not confrontation, as would-be realigners of the Right have sadly learned.