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FOCUS ON NEW HAMPSHIRE : New Hampshire may not mirror the rest of the country in its makeup, but it casts a huge reflection on presidential politics. Over a 40-year period, the state's primary has evolved into a crucial contest in the nominating process. Since 1952, every candidate who went on to win the White House first won his party's primary there. The 1992 primary will be Tuesday. : DEFINING THE TERRITORY

February 13, 1992

In awarding delegates, the two major parties use a proportional system-Democrats candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote receive delegates based on their vote percentage; for Republicans, the threshold is 10%. The primaries are not open to members of the opposing party, but independents may vote in either contest.

Number of presidential candidates on each party's ballot Democrats: 36 Republicans: 25

Convention delegates at stake Democrats: 16 (2,114 needed to win) Republicans: 23 (1,105 needed to win)

1988 primary turnout: Democrats: 159,390 Republicans: 125,344

Registered voters Democrats: 253,972 / 39% Republicans: 192,217 / 29% Independents and other: 212,572 / 32%

Urban / suburban residents New Hampshire: 51% U.S.: 75.2%

Population Total: 1,109,252 Males: 543,544 Females: 565,708

Income: Average per capita income: $20,827 Median family income: $43,300

Racial composition White: 97% Black: 1% Asian or Pacific Islander: 1% Latino origin: 1%

Unemployment (December, 1991): New Hampshire: 7.8% U.S.: 7.1%

Crime: Violent crimes per 100,000 population.* New Hampshire: 168 Nation: 663 * 1989 figures

EVOLUTION OF A POLITICAL PRIZE

New Hampshire voters can springboard obscure candidates into national prominence or shatter the best-laid plans of front-runners. Here is a look at notable past contests.

The Absentee Candidate: In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower won the Republican primary without setting foot in the state.

A Write-In Winner: The 1964 GOP race provided the type of surprise that has become the primary's hallmark. The winner-Henry Cabot Lodge-wasn't even on the ballot. He was the write-in choice over Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.

A Message for L.B.J.: In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson won the Democratic contest against anti-Vietnam War candidate Eugene J. McCarthy. But Johnson's margin was so shockingly small, he decided not to seek reelection.

McGovern Makes a Charge: In 1972, George S. McGovern, a little-known senator, ran a close second in the Democratic race to Edmund Muskie, the heavy favorite. Muskie faded; McGovern went on to win the nomination.

A Bust for Bush: George Bush's first race in New Hampshire ended in a crushing loss in the 1980 GOP primary. Ronald Reagan's victory derailed the "Big Mo" Bush thought was driving his campaign after he had won the Iowa caucuses.

Voter Volatility: In 1984, Gary Hart stunned the Democratic Establishment by riding a wave of last-minute support to defeat party insider Walter F. Mondale. Such voter volatility could mark this year's Democratic race.

A Boon for Bush: After a dismal showing in Iowa, Bush's 1988 White House hopes were resurrected by a New Hampshire win-an exact reversal of the situation eight years earlier. This year, the state once again could prove crucial to his political future.

SEEKING A WINNING STRATEGY

REPUBLICANS

* George Bush: The President has sought to dispel criticism he is out of touch with ordinary citizens by stressing that he appreciates the suffering the recession has caused. He has touted the economic package he unveiled in his State of the Union address and says a big primary win would help him enact it.

* Patrick J. Buchanan: The conservative commentator has accused Bush of selling out his conservative principles by compromising with Congress and agreeing to raise taxes. Voters, he says, can register their disapproval of Bush by voting for him.

DEMOCRATS

* Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.: The former California governor is running as a reformer, the self-proclaimed scourge of special interest money and the "corrupt" political Establishment. His own program is sketchy: Its centerpiece is a 13% flat tax to replace existing federal taxes.

* Bill Clinton: The Arkansas governor attracted support with a detailed, centrist platform of foreign and domestic issues. But his campaign has been hurt by questions about whether he tried to duck the draft and about unsubstantiated allegations of marital infidelity.

* Tom Harkin: The Iowa senator has staked his hopes on an unalloyed defense of traditional liberal values; he opposes, for example, a middle-class tax cut because he would rather spend the money on a public works program. He bills himself as the race's only "real" Democrat.

* Bob Kerry: The Nebraska senator has emphasized his detailed plan for health care reform, sometimes to the exclusion of all other issues. He also has stressed his war record-he won the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War.

* Paul E. Tsongas: The former Massachusetts senator touts himself as the sole candidate telling the "harsh truths" about what the nation must do to rebound economically. He has called on the party to abandon business-bashing and work more closely with the private sector.

POSTSCRIPT

Despite New Hampshire's profound impact on U.S. presidential politics, only one native son has ever ascended to the White House-Franklin Pierce, who served as the nation's 14th President. The compromise choice of a deadlock Democratic convention in 1852, Pierce proved an unsuccessful President and he was denied renomination by his party in 1856.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, University of New Hampshire, The Almanac of American Politics and The Uniform Crime Report.

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