In the days leading up to the Feb. 28 resignation of the White House's embattled chief of staff, Donald Regan, conservative activists enthusiastically embraced Secretary of Education William J. Bennett as their candidate for the post, one of the most powerful in the government.
A number of allies of the Secretary, such as Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, reportedly hoped to head off the appointment of a moderate Republican to replace Mr. Regan.
The "draft Bennett'' campaign began with a ringing endorsement of the Secretary by the columnist Robert Novak, during one of his regular appearances on "The McLaughlin Group,'' a syndicated television talk show featuring journalists from the Washington area.
In the column he writes with Rowland Evans, described by one former Reagan Administration official as "the New Right's bulletin board,'' Mr. Novak had praised Mr. Bennett for his strong views on, among other issues, sex education and abortion.
Other conservative activists noted Mr. Bennett's defense of President Reagan and his handling of the Iran affair, as well as the Secretary's aggressive response to attacks by Democratic Congressional leaders on the Administration's domestic policies.
"Obviously, Novak and a lot of other conservatives feel he is their kind of guy,'' said one Bennett aide in denying that the Secretary was under consideration for the job.
"The Secretary believes that he already has the best job in the government,'' the aide said.
First Monday, the house organ of the Republican National Committee, reports considerable progress in the party's efforts to garner support among the ranks of the nation's classroom teachers.
According to an article in the magazine's latest issue, the party has established more than 31 teacher advisory committees at the state and local levels to help Republican candidates win favor with educators.
While billing the committees primarily as a resource to help Republican officials develop and explain their education policies, party leaders quoted in the article also took note of efforts to "give Republican teachers a greater voice in existing national educator organizations.''
Like most labor groups, the two major teachers' unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have tended to support Democratic candidates, especially at the national level. Both unions strongly endorsed Walter Mondale, a Democrat, in the 1984 election for President.
As evidence of Republican efforts to counter that trend, the magazine points to the work of Jim Campbell, the Utah teacher who heads that state's Republican Teacher Council. At the 1986 N.E.A. convention, Mr. Campbell successfully petitioned for the creation of a Republican Caucus within the union.
According to First Monday, "Campbell and a steering committee are planning for the next N.E.A. convention, where they expect to represent the interests of about 200 Republican teachers.''--W.M.