MANCHESTER, N.H., March 12--Euphoria turned to bedlam here tonight. Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy (D-Minn.) came before a cheering, jumping, screaming crowd of campaign workers at 11:15 p.m., and not one among them doubted that the Democratic nomination was now possible for their candidate.
Despite New Hampshire's hawkish reputation, McCarthy held the President to 50 per cent of the vote, while scoring 41 per cent himself. With 85 per cent of the precincts reporting, Johnson had 21,239 votes to 17,109 for McCarthy.
"Our generation has been in power too long," McCarthy told the youthful group in the Terrace Room of the Sheraton Wayfarer, "but your time will come. We're going to advance it in this next Democratic administration."
McCarthy's "children crusade"--written off as politically impotent a few weeks ago--had delivered a stunning blow to the Administration of President Johnson in the nation's first presidential primary.
It appeared that McCarthy had captured at least 21 of the state's 24 delegate votes in the National Convention.
McCarthy forces had entered only 24 candidates, one for each seat, while Johnson's support was divided among 34 candidates. The resulting split worked to McCarthy's advantage.
McCarthy introduced several of his "McCarthy girls" to the crowd here and said, "The only bad judgement I made was that I didn't want to lead a children's crusade. But if they'd had Ann Hart and Sam Brown then, the children's crusade would have succeeded." (Brown is a former Divinity School student at Harvard.)
The Senator could not say more than four or five consecutive words, for every phrase was interrupted by cries of "Victory!" and chants of "We want Gene!"
"It would have been a personal failure if I had not done well here," he said, "because I have the most intelligent campaign workers, the most intelligent volunteers..."
"If we go to the convention with this kind of strength," McCarthy said, "there will be no riots. There will be no demonstrations, but a great victory celebration. I'll see you all in Wisconsin."
With that, McCarthy moved off the makeshift stage and made his way through the crowd in the Terrace of the Sheraton Wayfarer. Women hugged and kissed him; men shook hands and often embraced him.
Earlier, on his way to the celebration, a reporter asked McCarthy if he had spoken "to anyone outside the state tonight, anyone like Robert Kennedy."
"I haven't spoken to any politicians," he replied. "I talked to Robert Lowell, the poet. He said he had been set free. It's set the whole country free."
(87 per cent counted)
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