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Bush, Dukakis Victors in N. H. : Gephardt 2nd and Simon 3rd for Democrats

February 17, 1988|ROBERT SHOGAN | Times Political Writer

MANCHESTER, N.H — Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis coasted to an easy victory in the Democratic presidential primary in this neighboring New England state Tuesday while Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt edged out Illinois Sen. Paul Simon in a strategically crucial battle for runner-up.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, once again demonstrating, as he did in last week's Iowa caucuses, his ability to pull votes from outside his base of black support, finished in fourth place. Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr., former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart brought up the rear in that order.

With 100% of the precincts reporting, these were the results: Dukakis, 36%; Gephardt, 20%; Simon, 17%; Jackson, 8%; Gore, 7%; Babbitt, 5%; Hart, 4%, and other, 2%.

Won 'the Gold'

"I love the people of New Hampshire," Dukakis told cheering supporters at a victory rally here. "Last week in Iowa our message started to shine through, and we won a bronze. Tonight, here in New Hampshire, our message came through loud and clear. We went for the gold and we won it . . . ."

In referring to the challenge confronting his candidacy in the South in the March 8 Super Tuesday primary in that region, Dukakis said he had been asked if he had a special strategy for the South. "The fact of the matter is, I don't have a Southern strategy. I don't have a Northern strategy or a Western strategy. I have an American strategy.

"We believe in the kind of politics where you can say the same thing wherever you go in this country, a campaign that unites America, does not divide us."

Gephardt, who stressed much the same theme of national unity in his comments to his supporters, reflected the optimism among his advisers that his second-place finish here would provide an important boost to his fund-raising efforts before the Super Tuesday primary.

Asserting that he had been warned on arriving in New Hampshire last week after his victory in Iowa that voters here were too comfortable to respond to the issues he emphasized in economically distressed Iowa, Gephardt said: "We proved this is one nation and one country, and we proved that the people of New Hampshire care about the economy and care about the country and care about this cause."

Simon Vows to Continue

For his part Simon, in the face of his third-place finish, was understandly more subdued. But he vowed to continue his campaign.

"The returns tonight are not what we had hoped for," Simon told cheering supporters at a rally. "But the most important thing is what we stand for . . . a nation that cares again . . . . So we go on tomorrow to Minnesota and South Dakota."

Dukakis' victory here bolstered the notion that he was the closest thing to a front-runner to emerge in this still amorphous 1988 Democratic race. He entered the New Hampshire contest with a huge financial advantage over his adversaries and the success here was certain to keep the funds rolling in and assure him of continued media attention.

On the other hand, Gephardt's success in winning the battle for second place against Simon means that he will be able to pose a strong challenge to Dukakis in the South, where many feel that the Border State congressman has more potential appeal than the New England governor.

Indeed the Gephardt forces are already primed for their next clash with Dukakis, in the South Dakota primary next Tuesday. In that race, the Gephardt forces are expected to announce today the endorsement of Gephardt by Democratic Sen. Thomas A. Daschle, who they are counting on to give his campaign there a boost.

The Times exit polls reflected the scope of Dukakis' victory. The 54-year-old governor, now in his third term, won most of the liberals, who make up about half of New Hampshire Democrats, and most of the moderates, who make up about a quarter of the electorate. Simon finished second among liberals, while Gephardt was runner-up among moderates and won the conservatives, the smallest group.

Gephardt ran strongest in urban areas. He ran first in Manchester, the state's largest and most Democratic city, and overall won about 25% of the urban vote, nearly as much as Dukakis, who got about 30%. Dukakis' strongest region, not surprisingly, was near the border of his own state, where he received nearly 40% of the vote, compared with about 20% each for Simon and Gephardt.

Stepped-Up Pace

Because of its strategic position near the start of the nominating calendar, New Hampshire got plenty of attention from all the Democratic contenders throughout 1987. But the pace and intensity of the contest increased by geometric proportions after the results from last week's Iowa precinct caucuses rolled in.

Strategists for all the contenders were fully mindful of Iowa's dramatic impact on New Hampshire in 1984, when a 16% second-place finish by Hart gave him the momentum to overtake and defeat longtime front-runner Walter F. Mondale and change the nature of the Democratic campaign for the presidency.

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