Senator on Horseback

Brass Tacks

The people who took polls to determine what will happen in New Hampshire's presidential preference primary today asked their questions on the streets of Concord and Manchester, the metropolitan centers of the Granite State. The polls varied from day to day; recently they have showed Goldwater and Rockefeller running almost even.

But only three miles outside of Manchester there are high wooded hills criss-crossed with dirt roads that become almost impassable when melting snow turns them to mud. The pollsters rarely reach the farmers and retired old people who live along these roads. When a stranger calls to one of them as he wipes the mud off his tractor's engine with a stick, the farmer ambles over to the road's edge, considering the question: "I ain't sure, Mister. I ain't sure I should say even if I was sure."

The biggest unknown in today's contest is the number of voters who will write in Lodge's name on the ballot. If the number is large, the division of moderate voters may pull Rockefeller's total below Goldwater's. But if citizens heed Rockefeller's plea to "vote for one of the candidates who has openly declared himself a candidate, and who has traveled in the state to discuss the issues with you," then the united moderates may overwhelm the Goldwater backers.

Goldwater, naturally, is praying for a huge Lodge vote. His prediction that the Ambassador will take second place today (after himself) is probably calculated to ensure that the Ambassador will. For the same kind of reasons, Goldwater has been saying nice things about Bobby Kennedy. At a rally Saturday in Concord, he saw a man carrying a sign saying "OUR PRESIDENT IN SPIRIT LIVES ON: Carry on with Robert Kennedy." Goldwater pointed to the signs "It's none of my business, but for New Hampshire Democrats I don't think voting for Bobby Kennedy is a bad idea. The Attorney General and I are old friends. I have a great deal of respect for him." Goldwater knows that the more pressure the New Hampshire primary puts on President Johnson to make Kennedy his running-mate, the better his own Southern drawing power will look to delegates at the San Franciso convention.

At the same time, Goldwater has tried to offset the effect of the announcement earlier this month that the California primary is much more important than the New Hampshire contest. "Next Tuesday while you are voting," he said in Concord, "I'll be heading a rodco at home. I'l be riding an old palomino named Sonny--twenty-three years old but she rides better than a rocking chair..." (Laughter) "And as I ride down my mainstreet, I want the people in my hometown to point to me and say 'There's the fellah who won so big in New Hampshire.' That's why next Tuesday is so important to this particular candidate."

Finally, Goldwater is playing hard on the Cuba theme: "I was born on the Mexican border, and spoke Spanish almost before I spoke English. I know the Latin American people, and their concern with Cuba. I know that above all, they love courage and abhor cowardice. As of now, frankly, they consider us cowards: they cannot understand why a big country should let itself be pushed around by a little power like this."

Speeches like this bring pro-Goldwater audiences to their feet, stamping and screaming themselves hoarse with "We want Barry. We want Barry." Nelson Rockefeller's audiences react to their candidate more calmly. But there is a noticeable difference in the kind of people at Rockefeller's ratties. In Concord, Goldwaters audience consisted mostly of very old and very young people. The audience also seemed, by clothes and manners, to be a mixture of those with a great deal of money and those with almost none at all.

At Rockefeller's huge rally in Manchester, the audience was different. These were people satisfied with the status quo, who merely wanted a Republican status quo in place of a Democratic one. Barely cosmopolitan enough to accept Rockefeller's divorce, they were pleased by his vague talk of "taking a stand on the issues." They were not very interested in foreign affairs, and Rockefeller generally avoided the subject. He mentioned "crumbling Western alliances" and "the leadership gap in Washington."

Rockefeller's biggest advantage today is that voters seem tremendously attracted to him personally. He has fought hard for the nomination, and campaigned more in New Hampshire than any of the other candidates. Goldwater, on the other hand, strikes one as a tremendously sincere and honest man. He is very direct about what he stands for, in contrast with Rockefeller's evasively moderate positions. The question the primary will answer today is how Goldwater's stands appeal to the people of New Hampshire.