GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — Something rare was seen here Saturday--all six Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in New Hampshire at the same time.
The fact that this was a first in the 1988 campaign says something about how things have changed in a state that for years drew inordinate attention for holding the nation's first presidential primary.
That status, and the huge media spectacle attached to it, has now passed to Iowa. Candidates in both parties--but especially the Democrats--now campaign far more often in Iowa and other states and only occasionally make forays into New Hampshire, whose primary comes Feb. 16, about a week after the Feb. 8 Iowa caucuses.
Democratic consultant Paul Ambrosino--quoting the movie words of the outlaw Butch Cassidy--summed it up this way for New Hampshirites upon seeing the candidates Saturday afternoon at the state Democratic convention: "Who are those guys?"
1,000 Delegates in Gym
Saturday's convention has no direct effect on the outcome in the New Hampshire primary. But there was genuine excitement as the candidates waited to address more than 1,000 activist delegates in the gym at St. Anselm's College, which was festooned in red, white and blue banners, pennants, balloons and streamers.
For many, it was a first chance to see the candidates in person, once a common occurence here. Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt told the delegates: "You in this state made history in 1972 . . . and in 1976 . . . and in 1984 (with the upsets in those Democratic primaries) . . . and in 1988 you can do it again by casting a vote for honesty and straight talk."
Babbitt, of course, believes that he is that candidate because he has been willing to call for a national sales tax and for tough budget cuts to reduce the federal deficit.
He reminded the New Hampshire delegates Saturday that his rivals for the Democratic nomination have not been so candid about how to tackle the deficit even though they agree with him that it "threatens to remove America from world (economic) leadership."
'No More Cue Cards'
When he got his turn at the podium, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt said the Democratic Party offered the only hope of new direction in the country, and he blasted President Reagan in particular, shouting: "No more cue cards, no more TelePrompTers, no more sleeping presidents."
Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. also promised a new, more vigorous direction for the country and emphasized what be believes is his more centrist Democratic position--"We need a nominee who can win independents in states across the country."
Illinois Sen. Paul Simon said, to frequent interruptions of applause, that "I am for a government that cares, a government that believes, a government that acts, a government that dreams again."
And in an acknowledgment of the attacks he suddenly faces now that polls show him leading in Iowa and moving up in New Hampshire, Simon said: "I know there are those who say how can Paul Simon be for a balanced budget amendment and at the same time call for new programs for jobs and education and health care. My friends, there is no way you can be for these programs unless you are also for a balanced budget. The interest payments on the debt are (taking all the money)."
Dukakis Supporters March
Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis got the biggest demonstration of support as hundreds of his supporters chanted and marched around the arena when he was introduced.
Although acknowledging his New England base, Dukakis told the delegates that he is running a national campaign and said: "America is ready for a President who knows what he is doing, who knows how to create jobs and end the arms race."
Seeing all of the Dukakis support in the hall, as well as major demonstrations by supporters of other candidates, the Rev. Jesse Jackson got up and gave the most passionate speech of the group and said: "I want to see all of you not at demonstrations such as these but I want to see all of you at the plant gates of closed factories and at foreclosed farms. . . ."
Dukakis has led early opinion polls here, usually getting more than 45% of Democrats likely to vote in the Feb. 16 primary.
Simon Second in Poll
But the Simon people Saturday were touting a new survey by WNEV-TV in Boston that showed Dukakis with 37% and Simon in second place with 14% (next came Jackson with 11%, Gephardt with 6% and Babbitt and Gore with 3% each).
The New Hampshire campaign remains unsettled, however, say several local activists and analysts, who note that the results here inevitably will be influenced by the Iowa results.
Watching the excitement of many New Hampshirites upon seeing the Democratic candidates for the first time, delegate Dayton Duncan, a former aide to 1984 candidate Walter F. Mondale, said: "Iowa was already taking on more significance because it is earlier, but this year it is magnified because there is no front-runner (in the Democratic contest).
"So, when you combine the fact that you've got a bunch of relatively unknown candidates with what I think is a pretty big pool of undecided voters, what you've got is a very fluid situation in New Hampshire."
Staff writer Bob Drogin contributed to this story.