CHICAGO, JULY 1 -- A year and a half into the Bush administration, factions within the Republican Party appear to be moving in sharply different directions in their ideological appeals to voters.

This divergence, and the potential for internal party conflict, could be seen in the sharply contrasting tenor of the meeting here Thursday and today of the Republican National Committee -- the presidential arm of the party -- and a recent convention of the Texas Republican Party.

At the RNC meeting, Robert M. Teeter, a principal adviser to President Bush, warned that the nation is on the verge of a revival of social activism paralleling the surge of communal idealism in the 1930s and 1960s.

For the Republican Party to maintain the slow but steady growth that has put it on a par with the Democrats over the last decade, Teeter argued, the GOP must adapt conservative principles to a public agenda driven by many seemingly liberal issues, including the environment, day care and education.

At the Texas GOP convention last month, in contrast, a growing and hungry state party led by conservative Sen. Phil Gramm and gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams sought to draw tough, polarizing lines in the sand. "Texans like to put some barbecue sauce on their politics," said Chris Hennick, a GOP southern operative.

The Texas GOP platform minces no words on the subject of sexual conduct: "The practice of sodomy leads to the breakdown of the family unit and spread of the deadly disease AIDS. The Republican Party of Texas calls upon federal, state and local governments to enforce all laws with respect to homosexual conduct."

In the case of abortion, the Texas GOP "believes that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed upon except for when the mother's physical life is in danger." The platform statement contained no exemptions for abortions in the case of rape or incest.

The sharply contrasting ideological thrust of the RNC meeting here and the Texas GOP convention reflected the growing divergence within the party between the goals of the presidential wing and those of politicians and strategists involved in the battle for lower offices, from the House to City Council seats.

That divergence is most acute in the South. In Texas, for example, the presidential wing of the Republican Party is secure after three consecutive victories by GOP candidates Bush and Ronald Reagan. But this realignment on the presidential election level has not been translated into Republican power in the battles to control the Texas House delegation and the state legislature, both of which remain dominated by the Democrats.

As a result, Texas Republicans hoping to chop away at these remaining bastions of Democratic strength are far less interested in finding ways to reach accommodation with a growing social activism cited by Teeter than they are in using capital punishment, gay rights, prison policy and other "red meat" issues to draw a sharp ideological line between the two parties.

Similarly, Republican strategists such as Edward J. Rollins, co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) are struggling to expand the number of GOP voters in contests for lower offices in moderate to conservative House districts that have been easily carried by Republican presidential candidates.

"Bush can be kinder and gentler because he doesn't have to push all those voters over into the Republican column -- for him, they are already there," said one Republican strategist. "We do, and sometimes you have to use a little dynamite."

Rollins said there are "substantial differences" between his goals as head of the organization charged with electing GOP House candidates and the goals of the administration. Rollins described himself as engaged in a war, adding that "there are going to be some casualties."

Among many GOP House members, a critical partisan dividing line has been taxes. Without directly criticizing Bush's abandonment of his "no new taxes" pledge, freshman Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) contended that the key swing voter is a young person who, on entering the work force, "experienced paycheck sticker shock when they saw how little was left after taxes. If we are going to keep those young voters, they have to know that the Republicans are going to give them higher take home pay and less taxes. If we lose that, I don't see how we can make it. Taxation is a defining issue."

Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), a key architect of conservative strategy, said that Bush's tax decision may prove to be correct public policy but that from the political vantage point of House Republicans it was wrong.

"The issue of taxes is important to us" he said. "We do not get credit for macro-management of the economy. . . . We need some issues to separate ourselves from the Democrats. What is good for the president may well be good for the country, but it is not necessarily good for congressional Republicans. We need wedge issues to beat incumbent Democrats."

A Republican strategist closely tied to the party's presidential wing countered that the electorate in the 1990s is no longer seeking black and white answers as many voters did in the 1980s. The problem facing Republicans now, the strategist said, is no longer "defending B-1 bombers versus day care," but finding a way to structure the debate on day care to pit a Republican voucher or tax-based proposal against a Democratic grant program for government-run centers.

A number of Democrats are seeking to capitalize on what they see as a growing conflict of interest between the administration and House Republicans.

"I think the principal problem of House Republicans is that their own White House seems to have discovered their irrelevance to the process. . . . {they} have neither the numbers nor the influence to deliver on his program," said Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.). "House Republicans are something for the president to work around, and not through."

Torricelli indicated he agreed with Teeter's thesis of revived social activism and a changed domestic agenda but he argued that Republicans will have an uphill battle in dealing with this agenda. "During the worst of the Cold War and the height of concern over federal spending, the Democrats never established credibility, no matter how similar our language was to Republicans" on defense and spending issues, Torricelli said. "Republicans now face the converse of that dilemma."

Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) contended that the contemporary Republican Party is "becoming like the Democrats were in the 1980s, looking for a place to go, without a consensus."

In his presentation to the RNC meeting here, Teeter contended that despite the seeming liberal tilt of growing social activism and concern about domestic problems, traditional Democratic approaches have been discredited among the voters. Voters are now prepared to deal with an activist domestic agenda driven by principles of "the market economy, lower taxes and less regulations," Teeter said. Moreover, voters have "little or no faith that the federal government is capable of solving these problems," he added.

Gingrich argued in an interview that growing Democratic confidence in the vulnerability of the GOP is misplaced.

"Look, right now the most famous Democratic mayor is {Washington} Mayor Marion Barry," he said. "The most famous Democratic congressman, {Rep.} Barney Frank {D-Mass.}. And the most famous Democratic presidential candidate is Jesse Jackson. This is not a party that is competing with us on a national setting."

Torricelli countered that the 1980s was a decade of Republican failure "to get majority party status. With the advantage of presidential landslides, ideological support from the electorate and an enormous financial advantage, they ultimately failed."

Now, Torricelli argued, "the agenda is changing too quickly for them to catch up."