ACCORDING TO THE current conventional wisdom, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana lost in last Tuesday's Massachusetts presidential primary because he was "everybody's second choice." The real reasons for his poor showing and subsequent withdrawal, however, lie in a series of miscalculations by his campaign staff, both at the national level and in Massachusetts.
When Bayh entered the race in October, his strategists believed that four states would be crucial for him: New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts and New York. But of those four, they saw Massachusetts as the least important. Iowa was the first state to hold delegate caucuses, and it was near his midwestern home base. New Hampshire, with the first primary, was a small state where his effectiveness as a one-on-one personal campaigner would be the most helpful. He was due to peak in New York, where his supporters felt he would finally have enough time to build a solid organization and take advantage of his labor support. In Massachusetts, Udall seemed too strong, and Bayh simply wanted to survive its primary and then begin a month of New York campaigning.
Because of this strategy, Bayh's national campaign organization slighted Massachusetts in its spending allocations. Bayh spent heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he finished only second and third respectively. And by last Tuesday, Bayh had spent twice as much in New York as he had in Massachusetts. Here he had spent less than $200,000, and most of that at the wrong time.
Various polls have indicated that one week before the Massachusetts primary, as many as 80 per cent of the voters were still undecided. But during that last week, when the voters either made up their minds or decided not to vote, Birch Bayh was a nearly invisible candidate. While other candidates monopolized the front page news, Bayh was largely ignored. His Massachusetts campaign had run out of money for advertising. In that critically important week between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Bayh had no radio spots, no television time, and no paid newspaper ads. Overall, Bayh spent only $38,000 on television in Massachusetts, and it simply wasn't enough.
Although the decision to slight Massachusetts in funding came from Bayh's national campaign staff, his people in Massachusetts made a miscalculation of their own. They expected a low turnout in Massachusetts, of perhaps 400,000 Democrats. Despite the day-long snowstorm that hit New England last Tuesday, the turnout was about 680,000--a record for a presidential primary here. In the last few days before the election, Bayh's staff had been hoping its man would pull about 10 per cent of the vote--not a winning share, but enough to keep him alive. They had identified almost all of Bayh's hard-core supporters and managed to draw them to the polls through persistent telephone canvassing. But because they had underestimated the turnout, that 10 per cent turned into a disastrous 5 per cent, and Bayh's campaign bit the dust.
When he suspended his campaign last week, Bayh did not endorse any other candidates because he felt it would be unfair to his supporters in New York who now had to fight for their own political lives. But he may also believe that Representative Morris K. Udall cannot win and that eventually the Democrats will turn to Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. A Humphrey-Bayh ticket is not beyond the realm of possibility for 1976, and at 47, Bayh's own presidential ambitions are still alive. Maybe in 1980 he will have enough money to make it to New York.