Democratic and Republican party presidential candidates have spread money, staff, and themselves all over New Hampshire, but little is certain in this state with the first primary and the distinction of thinning-out the pack and possibly selecting the next president.
Although primary day, February 16, is still several months away, New Hampshire has become known as "Duke territory" among Democrats because of its strong support for three-term Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. Many political and campaign analysts consider the New Hampshire vote a giveaway for the governor.
Dukakis has garnered the support of many New Hampshire voters because of his proximity to the state, his frequent visits and his opposition to the controversial Seabrook nuclear power plant.
But popularity also has a downside. "Primaries politics are based on expectation and perception," said Boston political consultant Michael Goldman. "Dukakis can win with 43 percent of the vote and still be considered the loser because he should have won 50 percent of the vote."
The significance of the Democratic primary will be based not only on actual percentages, but on the public and media interpretions of the numbers. Unfortunately for the "Duke," the candidate who wins by the largest margin will not necessarily be called the winner. A strong second place finish could make a campaign for a Democratic contender.
Most of the presidential hopefuls have taken advantage of this New Hampshire paradox by devoting time and resources to building grassroots support and making personal appearances in the state.
According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports, candidates from both parties have raised a total of $70 million through September 30, and spent $55 million, much of which was allocated to New Hampshire.
"New Hampshire voters are a very sophisticated group who expect individual contact with the candidate," said Dukakis's N.H. Deputy Campaign Manager Richard Sigel, adding that Dukakis has the most campaign headquarters in the state and has allocated more than $61,000 to the N.H. effort.
"New Hampshire is different from other states in many aspects because of the intensity of the media attention," said Vice President George Bush's Northeast Political Director Ronald C. Kaufman. "We were gearing up much earlier in N.H." will do very well in N.H., but Sigel pointed out that N.H. "has not always been good to its neighbors," referring to Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Ma.) 1980 and Edward Muskie's 1972 defeats in the state.
Voters in the "Granite State" are hardly solid and their eclectic decisions can often determine the future of the presidential race. In 1984 Sen. Gary Hart (D.-Col.) campaigned heavily in N.H. and went from a dismal performance in the lowa caucus a week earlier to win the nation's first primary and become a leading Democratic candidate.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has spent the least money in N.H. among the candidates, about $3000, has based his N.H. campaign primarily on grassroots support. Campaign officials said they are not looking for a 51 percent win. "The point is proving your ability to address the issues and keeping an informed and sophisticated electorate on your side," said Jackson's N.H. Press Secretary Joseph T. Liu.
Liu said Jackson is coming in second place in many N.H. polls, and "if we can have a solid showing, it will prove we can play in a state without many Blacks or unemployed voters, and we are addressing the problems the people want to hear."
Among the other Democrats vying for the second-place finish is Rep. Richard Gephardt (D.-Mo.). The six-term congressman has spent more than $96,000 in the state and has canvassed there more than 100 times.
Gephardt campaign officials said they are not disheartened by the Duke's strength in the region. While he agreeed that N.H. was a key primary state, N.H. Student Coordinator Mark Fusaris said, "We're running a national camapign, not just one in N.H. and lowa."
Campaign officials for Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) '69 boast that they have the largest paid N.H. staff and have invested more than $66,000 there. Gore has much to lose or gain in the early primaries as he has made an active effort to separate himself from his colleagues by vocally attacking traditional party positions. A strong showing in New Hampshire may indicate voters are ready for his critique while a weak finish would end his gamble.
"Gore has been more vocal about his positions and has acknowleged there are differences between he and the other candidates," said N.H. Press Secretary Mary Ellen Price.
Among the disputed issues is his support for humanitarian aid to the Nicaraguan rebels, known as the contras, and his support for the reflagging of Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf, Price said.
Gov. Bruce Babbitt (D-Az.) is also paying close attention to N.H., because like lowa, it has the capacity to "sling-shot candidates into the Super Tuesday primaries," said Babbitt's N.H. Campaign Director Michael N. Muir. The Babbitt campaign has spent more than $105,000 in N.H.
They also conceded to a Dukakis victory in the primary, citing the governor's high name-recognition and proximity to the state, but agreed that their objective is to finish a strong second.
Like the others, Sen. Paul Simon's (D-III.) campaign staff, who invested more than $39,000 in N.H., said the Duke must be able to pull in at least 60 percent in his own region to be considered a serious candidate.
Simon's N.H. Political Director James Coish said the senator will accept a second place finish, but said it is too early to predict the second-tier results of the primary.
While the Democrats are struggling among themselves to emerge in a strong second place victory, the Republican candidates are facing what could already be a two-man race.
In recent weeks, Bush has become a very visible candidate, and many political analysts said Bush was the clear winner in last Wednesday's Republican party debate in Houston. The Bush camapign has spent more than $87,000 in the state.
Kaufman said he expected the vice-president will do very well in the primary because he established himself in the 1980 presidential campaign. He called Bush "the best vice-president in history" and said in times of such in-depth character scrutinization, voters would be attracted by Bush's loyalty and "depth of experience."
Sen. Robert Dole's (R-Kan.) New England Press Secretary Paul E. Jacobson, agreed that the race is becoming a two-man race between Dole and Bush, and cited nation-wide polls showing Dole closing the gap between the vice-president in recent weeks.
While it is still unclear where the candidates standings are at this point, the senator still has to sharpen his image with voters. He has scheduled the announcment of his official candidacy in N.H. on November 9, and has waged a major effort to meet individually with voters.
"Perhaps Dole had too much of a harsh image, but we hope voters will find him relaxed, warm and humerous, as he truly is," said Jacobson. To improve voter perception of Dole, the campaign has spent more than $90,000 in the state.
Jacobson said Dole will do well in N.H. because while Bush has served a primarily "ceremonial role" since 1980, Dole has casted over 10,000 votes in the senate, and voters are looking for a hands-on president and manager.
The surprise third candidate in the GOP race could be the Reverend Pat Robertson. Robertson performed well in the Houston debate and political analysts said the lawyer and religious leader could gain in the polls.
"Robertson has the capacity to do for the Republican party what Jackson has done for the Democrats," Goldman said.
A possible disappointment in the GOP race, especially for those in the Northeast, is Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), who early in the campaign was expected to make a strong showing, but has since faded into the pack of candidates.
But Kemp campaign officials said they still see the N.H. race as a two-man battle between Bush and Kemp, discounting Dole's influence. "He does not have very good organization," said Kemp's N.H. Campaign Director Paul A. Young.
While Young said Kemp only has name recognition of one-third of the N.H. voters, he said the figures will improve and will reflect in strong gains for Kemp in the primary. They have spent more than $57,000 in N.H.
Other GOP candidates have not written off the N.H. primary. They are expectedly optimistic about the vote, and said the race is still wide-open.
Gov. Pete du Pont (R-Del.) is campaigning heavily in N.H., spending more than $30,000. "Du Pont is willing to confront tough issues. He thinks the American people want to hear solutions, not feel-good rhetoric," said his N.H. Press Secretary Gordon H. Hensley.
Du Pont, calling himself the most specific of the candidates, has proposed climinating farm subsidies, said he will not raise taxes, and that he will take a harder line against the Soviets.
Another GOP candidate who has not separated himself from the pack is former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who has regularly visited N.H., but is spending most of his campaign time trying to explain his past.
"We want to get rid of the take-charge issue," said Haig's N.H. Office manager Randi L. Joseph, referring to the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, when Haig was quoted as having said he was in charge of the nation, ignoring a constitutionally established hierarchy that puts the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives in power.
Joseph said the quote was taken out of context, and said Haig is interested in leadership for America, but not taking leadership from anyone else's hands.
Haig staffers are also trying to downplay the former general's image as a war-monger. "We have had 12 generals who became president, but none in war-time because they have all seen it first-hand," Joseph said. They have spent more than $24,000 on the N.H. campaign.