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Final Tally Shows Buchanan at 37% : Primary: Large write-in vote drops total from 40%, narrows margin of defeat by Bush. Many N.H. residents put Democrats' names on GOP ballots.

February 20, 1992|PAUL RICHTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The official tally Wednesday for New Hampshire's Republican primary showed a large write-in vote shrinking Patrick J. Buchanan's election showing to 37% of the total, rather than the 40% that was widely reported Tuesday night.

The official state tally also dropped President Bush's share to 52.9%, from the reported 58%, and narrowed the margin between the two.

The count, released by the office of the New Hampshire secretary of state, showed that 7.5% of Republican voters, or 13,081, wrote in candidates' names. In 1988, just over 1% voted by write-in.

The official result was both bad news and good news for the candidates. The good news for Bush, and bad news for Buchanan, was that Buchanan had not achieved the 40% level widely considered to be a harbinger of a major challenge.

But the bad news for Bush, and good news for Buchanan, was that almost 50% of New Hampshire Republicans had registered a protest vote in one form or another, and that his margin over Buchanan was now 16 points instead of 18.

Large numbers of the write-ins on the Republican ballot were for Democrats: former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas had 3,677; Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, 1,696; New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, 798; former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., 772; Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, 735; and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, 542.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader received 3,257 votes. Actor Tom Laughlin, star of the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, received 265 votes, while Libertarian Party nominee Andre Marrou received 99. Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who withdrew from the Democratic race, got 30 write-in votes.

Unofficial vote tallies by the Associated Press and News Election Service, which is a consortium that includes television networks, reported the 58%-40% split Tuesday night. Buchanan's number was hailed as highly significant because many analysts had said that a 40% showing against an incumbent President would represent a serious rebuke to Bush's leadership.

The revision was promptly hailed by presidential Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater, who described it as putting Buchanan "way below 40." Jerry Woodruff, communications director for the Buchanan campaign in Washington, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The write-in vote was overlooked by the news organizations because election officials set them aside uncounted, as they customarily do, on election eve.

The official tally showed that in raw figures, Bush got 92,233; Buchanan 65,087, and the write-in candidates 13,081. All other candidates on the Republican ballot got 2.2%, or 3,764.

The state office did not release final figures for the Democratic primary vote. The state report showed 174,165 voters turned out, which was far above expectations, although some analysts had predicted the recession would bring a big turnout.

Under New Hampshire rules, residents with Republican or Independent registration are allowed to vote in the Republican primary.

Exit polls Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times showed that of the voters who did not vote for either Bush or Buchanan, 65% said they would never vote for Buchanan. Sixty-one percent identified themselves as "moderate" politically.

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