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McGovern: Triumph at HoJo's

By Leo FJ. Wilking

SENATOR McGOVERN was up early on the day of the primary, shaking hands at a shoe factory in Manchester at about 8:30 a.m. I, and other reporters, followed him around inside as he spoke to each of the workers, all women, toiling over boots and shoes. The women were polite and friendly as McGovern talked to them, but they immediately went back to their work after he had moved on, and they paid little attention to the bright lights used by television crews and photographers.

We left before McGovern and drove over to Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge (where, incidentally, McGovern had set up camp) to have some breakfast. We were eating our eggs and muffins when the Senator walked in with his wife and aides, also seeking breakfast. He chose a table in the back of the room, next to ours, but stopped to talk to us for a while as he waited for his small encourage to catch up with him.

We asked McGovern how he thought he would do that day in New Hampshire, and he replied that he thought he'd do well, better than most people thought. We asked him about the debate on the previous Sunday, and he said that it was a meaningless exercise with too many candidates. Then we all wished him good luck.

IT WAS HARD not to be impressed with this man who was running for President. He had been on the campaign trail for 14 months already and faced another four months of travel and speeches before the convention in Miami Beach in July. We invited him to have some coffee with us, but he declined, saying that he had to sit with the rest of his party and go over some last-minute details with his sides.

McGovern sat down at his table and some people came up to get his autograph. He started to talk with Frank Mankiewicz, his national political coordinator. As we left, Mrs. McGovern was holding the baby of a woman at a nearby table and talking about children and the recent birth of her own granddaughter.

Later in the day McGovern would tour some of the polling places in Manchester to encourage his workers and sway any undecided voters of there were any. As the returns began to come in over the television that evening, and his percentage of the vote rose from 25 to 30 to 32 to 35 and finally to 37 per cent, there was jubilation in the halls of Hojo's Motor Lodge. The Senator came down at about 10:45 p.m. to make a brief speech in the jammed ballroom, thanking his hundreds of volunteers and proclaiming a moral victory. He came downstairs once more, just to shake hands with his supporters in the corridors and thank them again.

Then the McGovern forces went to bed, tired but very satisfied, remembering what David Brinkley had said in NBC's summation of the evening: "There are now three serious candidates for the Presidency in this country: Richard Nixon, Edmund Muskie and George McGovern." Even if it was unfair to Humphrey. Jackson and Lindsay, nobody was complaining. The next morning all would be on a plane on the way to Florida.

* * *

One thing interesting about travelling around New Hampshire was the slogan emblazoned on New Hampshire license plates: "Live Free or Die." This is the state motto, taken from the Revolution, but this is the first year it has been so boldly displayed. The alternative to freedom was perhaps in William Loeb's mind as he blasted "Moscow Muskie."

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