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The Times Poll : Bush 'Resume' Prevails; Geography Aids Dukakis

February 17, 1988|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Staff Writer

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Demonstrating their Yankee independence, New Hampshire citizens ignored the judgment of Iowans and sided Tuesday with the candidates--Vice President George Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis--whom they have known longest and felt most comfortable with, interviews with voters by the Los Angeles Times Poll showed.

Bush's "experience"--the diverse "resume" so derided by Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in his aggressive campaigning--is what appealed to New Hampshire Republicans, rather than any particular ideology or issue.

Asked their "main reasons" for choosing a candidate, Republican voters answered mostly that it was "experience," "leadership" and "trust." Two-thirds of Bush's supporters said they were influenced by his experience. Put another way, for people who considered experience a major reason for selecting a candidate, Bush was selected by more than 2 to 1 over Dole.

But Dole, the Republican leader in the Senate, was the "leadership" candidate in the opinion of New Hampshire voters. Roughly half of his supporters were looking mainly for leadership. And people in search of a leader chose Dole by 3 to 2.

Republicans who mainly wanted a candidate they could trust generally divided their votes three ways--among former religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Bush and Dole. The vast majority of Robertson's voters were looking for somebody they could trust.

In the Democratic primary, as expected, Dukakis benefited from being a fellow New Englander, a quasi-favorite son. Roughly one in 10 Democrats said they selected their candidate mainly because "he's from New England and he understands our problems." And one-third of the veteran Massachusetts governor's support came from people who were swayed, in large part, by his geographical roots.

By contrast, Bush--who was born in Massachusetts, reared in Connecticut and has a summer home in Maine--seemed to benefit very little from his Yankee background. Hardly any Republican voters were concerned about whether a candidate was a New Englander, the Times survey showed.

Favored by Liberals

Dukakis, besides being a local boy, also apparently landed on the right side of most issues in the view of New Hampshire Democrats, particularly the liberals who dominated Tuesday's voting.

By far the "most important" issue for New Hampshire Democrats was the federal budget deficit, selected by more than 2 to 1 over any other topic as a deciding factor in how to vote. And people mainly concerned about the deficit chose Dukakis by roughly 3 to 2 over Illinois Sen. Paul Simon and Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt. Dukakis' position on how to lower the deficit has been that he would collect the substantial taxes already owed but unpaid by tax-dodging Americans before, as a last resort, he raised tax rates.

Democrats concerned about the environment and energy policies--which ranked midway on the scale of "important issues"--also backed Dukakis overwhelmingly. The governor clearly had impressed New Hampshire voters by blocking opening of the giant Seabrook nuclear power plant and campaigning vigorously against an oil import tax, which was advocated by Gephardt.

Little Help From Issues

By contrast, in the Republican primary, Bush seemed to be helped little by issues. Republicans, like Democrats, lopsidedly picked the budget deficit as "most important," choosing it by more than 2 to 1 over any other issue. Bush barely edged Dole among people principally concerned about the deficit.

"Morality in government" was a distant second on the GOP list of important issues. And Robertson had an edge among people concerned about this.

Unlike Iowa, where Dole and Gephardt scored impressive wins in the first major contests of the presidential race Feb. 8, there was not a big bloc of disenchanted, anti-Establishment voters in prosperous New Hampshire to provide victories for these two candidates, who have campaigned heavily on populist campaign themes.

But the survey of New Hampshire voters illustrated again that Gephardt does have an ability to attract conservative Democrats, who will be more in abundance on Super Tuesday when 20 states--most of them Southern--hold primaries or caucuses. Gephardt edged out Dukakis among Democratic conservatives in New Hampshire. Dukakis, on the other hand, beat Gephardt by 3 to 2 among middle-of-the-roaders and Simon by 3 to 2 among liberals.

Type of Role Reversal

There was a role reversal of sorts for Dukakis and Gephardt in New Hampshire, contrasted with Iowa. In Iowa, Dukakis was the "status quo" candidate in the view of Democratic caucus-goers. In New Hampshire, the status quo candidate was Gephardt.

In Iowa, Gephardt appealed to blue-collar workers who were hurting economically. However, there was much less economic discontent in booming New Hampshire. Here, Gephardt appealed to Democratic conservatives who seemed to be reasonably satisfied with their lives.

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