Political conservatives, who have come to expect little from President Bush on domestic policy, were pleasantly surprised with what he said in his State of the Union address and praised his bold foreign policy rhetoric. But many also said Bush is a long way from overcoming the mistrust he created last year by agreeing to raise taxes.

"Until we see the follow-through and the implementation, he's not back in the good graces, not only of conservatives but of most Republicans" who opposed tax increases, said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who said he did like the speech itself.

Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said he was impressed by the foreign policy part of Bush's speech. "He just as well could have phoned in the rest of it," he added.

But House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a frequent critic of the administration, said he liked what he heard from Bush, even on domestic issues. "I'm not sure that some conservatives will be happy under any circumstances," Gingrich said. "If you look hard enough, there will be reasons it isn't good enough. But it was a pretty good speech."

The ongoing war between Bush and elements of the conservative wing of his party has taken a new turn because of the war the president is waging against Iraq. The very sort of staunch conservatives who hated Bush's heresy on taxes love his emphasis on the importance of American power in the world. This, the White House has hoped, would help ease bitter feelings on the Right. And to some extent, that hope has been borne out.

"Life is complicated and we're not one-issue people," said Rep. C. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), a former Reagan administration official and a staunch conservative. "There is nothing more important than the national security of the United States of America."

But conservatives who form the activist base of the Republican Party also could find their influence reduced by the war policy they support so much. Bush's standing as a wartime leader who -- at least for the moment -- enjoys popularity well beyond the party's conservative base may free him from having to worry quite as much about a rebellion on the Right.

"The conservatives have to be unhappy right now because Bush has finally found a circumstance which his predisposition is suited for: to be a president who elevates himself above ideological conflict," said Robert J. Shapiro, vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank with close ties to centrist Democrats. "This has got to be a body blow to conservatives whose agenda is change."

Bush, Shapiro added, "for the first time has the potential to be independent of the hard-core conservative base."

Conservatives, not surprisingly, vigorously dispute Shapiro's view. "That's what always happens during a war," said Rohrabacher. "The president becomes commander in chief, not a political leader. That's nothing to lament. That's a fact of life."

And many conservatives actually took considerable comfort from the president's State of the Union message, which in Gingrich's view bowed to the right on issue after issue.

"Conservatives said that they had to have economic growth and capital gains cuts and they got it," Gingrich said, adding that the same was true on issues such as controlling spending, educational choice and an emphasis on "empowerment." Though the president did not use that word, which has taken on a certain magic among conservatives, Gingrich noted that Bush referred over and over to granting power to individuals.

The White House also appears to have succeeded in its management of conservative expectations.

For weeks, conservatives have been fighting to make sure the president maintained his commitment to cuts in the capital gains tax and to include as many elements as possible from what has become known as the "new paradigm" or "empowerment" agendas associated with Jack Kemp, the secretary of housing and urban development, and young White House aides such as James P. Pinkerton.

The White House tried to damp down conservative hopes in advance by insisting that the speech would be devoted largely to foreign policy. Conservatives were thus pleasantly surprised at how much Bush did talk about their issues. "I thought there was more on the domestic side in the speech than I anticipated," said Cox.

Stuart Butler, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has been critical of Bush, said that many aspects of the speech would "sit well with conservatives." These included the president's continuing emphasis on capital gains tax cuts and his talk about decentralization, tenant ownership of public housing and parental choice in education.

But Butler, in a criticism that has almost become an article of the conservative creed, said the president was still lacking in boldness. "He would have been much better off if he had tried to encapsulate {his program} in a way that drew a distinction between ordinary notions of self-help and something more substantial, like committing to housing vouchers or education vouchers," Butler said.

Gingrich said that while he and other conservatives were encouraged by Bush so far, the resentments created by last year's budget fight remain powerful. "There's still a strong and legitimate grievance about the no-tax pledge and the budget," Gingrich said. "I think it's going to take a long time for that to heal."