Little Suspense, High Stakes in Massachusetts Primary

Bay State Is Third Largest Super Tuesday Prize But Native Son Tsongas Is Clear Favorite; Clinton May Surprise Pundits

The Massachusetts presidential primary hasn't been very eventful in recent years, and 1992 may not be any different, with native sons poised to do well again.

Nevertheless, candidates put in a few final hours of campaign time in the Bay State in an effort to win some of the state's 94 Democratic delegates--the third-largest prize among Super Tuesday states--and 38 Republican delegates.

In 1988, the Democratic event here pitted the Rev. Jesse Jackson and several even less prominent candidates against the sitting governor of the commonwealth, Michael S. Dukakis. The Republican ballot was headed by George Bush, who was born in Milton, Mass.

Dukakis received 57.3 percent of the Democratic vote in that election, followed by Jackson with 18.2 percent. Bush won 57.3 percent of the Republican votes, though only 8000 more than Jackson. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas was second with 25.8 percent.

The 1992 election has produced essentially the same scenario. Former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, born and raised in Lowell, Mass. is a known quantity to the state's voters. Tsongas stands to win by a huge margin, and Republicans in the state seem unlikely to desert Bush in large numbers.

Tsongas and his main rival Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton have criss-crossed the South in preparation for Super Tuesday, on which 11 states will hold primaries or caucuses. But Tsongas competitors have largely ignored Massachusetts until this weekend, conceding a Tsongas victory here.

Indeed, in a poll published in The Boston Globe on Sunday, Tsongas received 64 percent of the Democratic vote here, and Clinton eight percent. Former California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. took six percent, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey--who dropped from the race the day after the poll's completion--four percent and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who left the race yesterday, three percent.

Massachusetts may actually have received more attention in the weeks preceding the February 18 New Hampshire primaries. Campaign advertisements aired on Boston television and radio, and candidates occasionally left the Granite State to pick up endorsements or to give speeches in Massachusetts.

In one sense, Tsongas may have the most to lose today. A strong showing in the state by Clinton or any other candidate would be considered a blow to the Tsongas campaign.

Such an outcome is not out of the question. Clinton has received endorsements from several Democratic legislators and other officials, including former Attorney General Francis X. Bellotti.

Bellotti made his endorsement Saturday, saying the Arkansas governor was "substance with style," parodying Tsongas' "substance over style" campaign theme.

Tsongas may recognize his own mortality; he opted to return to Boston last night for a rally and to stay in the state tonight, rather than travel to Illinois or Michigan, two states with important primaries next week.

Brown also made the journey north, speaking at a rally on the Boston Common yesterday.

Despite the competition, political analysts are predicting that Tsongas will not be disappointed with his Massachusetts finish.

"You've got the person who is the most popular political figure in the state running," Martin A. Linsky, a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government, said of Tsongas in an Associated Press interview. Linsky, a former Republican legislator, said, "It would be a mistake for any [other] Democratic candidate to have expectations."