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Vance Hartke: South Indiana Boy

By M. DEACON Dake

SENATOR VANCE HARTKE loves the people of New Hampshire." This declaration flew above the banner of William Loeb's Manchester Union Leader every day of the week before the New Hampshire primary election. High atop the front page of New Hampshire's only daily paper Hartke the Hoosier was whispering sweet nothings to the White Mountain State voters.

Why was Hartke (below) courting the readers with love letters in 72-point boldface lead type? Was this just some good-ol'-down-on-the-farm-Hoosier-friendly-neighbor gesture or was Hartke actually trying to woo votes with this, shall we say, rather hokey amorous ploy? Did he actually think he had any chance of winning?

It was the day before the election and bright and sunny in Manchester. The car pulled over to the curb in front of Hartke-for-President headquarters. His center for campaign operations was on the main street, Elm St., but it was at least five blocks away from the center of town and the other candidates' headquarters.

At first glance, two oddities immediately struck me. One was the nature of the "office" itself. It was an old-wood-frame-three-story-white- family dwelling with a huge front porch. The other was the fact that there were no tracks in the snow in the direction of the front door.

In fact, upon reaching the front door I found it was locked. A quick pounding brought a worker.

She drew back the curtains and then peered through the glass at me with a surprised, if not awe-struck, look.

She motioned for me to go around to the left side of the house. She let me in a rear door and ushered me into the back porch through a swamp of unused Hartke posters, through the kitchen parlor, dining room, and finally into the living room which was the main headquarters for the operation.

After a brief talk, which basically consisted of having the people in charge tell me what they were doing the day before the election--cleaning out their desks and getting ready to go back home--1 left. While every other headquarters staff in the city was working double-time in that final push before the voters went to the polls, Hartke's workers were spring cleaning. I reentered the maze and after five minutes found my way back to the swamp and out the back door.

The day before, I went to a reception in an old-wood-frame-three-story-grey-family dwelling for the candidate himself. Being famished, I made a bee-line for the goodies spread on the dining-room table. In one of the more daring moves of the New Hampshire campaign I opened the giant pocket of my trench coat and redistributed the pretzels from the affluent china to my impoverished pocket.

BY AND BY Vance stepped through the door to the spontaneous applause of the twenty or so Hartke supporters. Prominent in the crowd of fashionably dressed Middle Americans was Richard Dilbeck (right), Hartke's national finance chairman. With a wide grin below his painted mustache, Dilbeck said, "We spent $150,000, of which $60,000 went for broadcasting. I should know, I signed all the checks."

"Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States." Silence fell on the room, and Hartke gingerly advanced from the shadows to address the gathering in the living room. "Why don't you folks move closer now, gather round, gather round." A few people shifted in response to Hartke's plea, but those (including this reporter) standing near the exit held their ground.

Obviously unprepared for the occasion, Hartke started slowly. He sought to inspire his troops, and what could be more inspiring than stories of his south Indiana boyhood? Unfortunately, he could think of nothing. He told of his second-grade teacher, and by the time he started in on his high school teachers and the central role of prayer in his success I knew it was time for me to leave.

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