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Wilbur D. Mills: He has the means but lost the way

Views From New Hampshire


WILBUR D. MILLS (D-Ark.) is as American "as apple pie and a glass of milk," or at least that's how he was introduced to the people of Manchester during his first and only appearance in the New Hampshire primary campaign, where he was running as a write-in candidate.

The Mills visage invaded the White Mountain State five weeks before the gala appearance in the Sheraton Carpenter ballroom. Not only were New Hampshirites confronted daily by smiling red, white, and blue placards on every street corner, but they were offered the opportunity to see a specially prepared documentary narrated by none other than Burgess Meredith, the "Penguin" of Batman fame.

Many people have wondered why Mills chose to run. He himself told the munching crowd of 500, "Frankly I think anyone who wants to be President must have a hole in his head." For someone who thinks that you have to be crazy to run for President Wilbur Mills is certainly making an all-out effort.

His Congressional colleagues have no doubts of his candidacy. His proposal for a 20 per cent boost in Social Security benefits seems out of keeping with the traditional frugality which has characterized his Chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, a post he has held since 1958.

Wilbur Mills is not the typical liberal candidate. His voting record tends to reflect the sentiments of his Arkansas constituency. During Mills's afternoon appearance one reporter asked Mills how he could be President when he has voted against "virtually every major civil rights bill since election to Congress."

He responded, "When I'm President I'll be President of all the people. Right now I'm just a Congressman from one district."

The ruddy-faced, be-spectacled Congressman is not noted for his antiwar efforts. When asked about his stand on Vietnam, he replied, "Aw, I don't want to go into that now."

Over 500 Mills supporters flocked to hear their candidate at the get-together, partake of the open bar and enjoy the shrimp and other delicacies--without doubt the best cuisine served up by any candidate in the primary campaign.

The Wilbur Mills-for-President campaign met with serious difficulties from the beginning. Arriving with little over a month left until the primary, the Mills staff was unable to garner endorsements from anyone in New Hampshire.

Its campaign strategy relied heavily on a telephone canvass conducted by fifteen volunteers in the Manchester headquarters.

The campaign organization was bolstered by $150,000 of campaign funds, $60,000 of which was spent on television and radio broadcasting. Chuck Ward, Mills's campaign manager and a fellow resident of Hendrixd, Arkansas, was hoping for a six to seven per cent showing, which he thought would "capture the imagination of the public."

Ward does have a basic difference of opinion from Mills on the busing issue. "Wilbur and I differ on that question. You see, Wilbur is against busing. Back in Arkansas I own a firm--there are only six in the United States--which manufactures school buses. Why, maybe you rode to school in one of my buses. I'm all for busing the children to school.

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