Nashua, N.H. — For the Democratic candidates, the fight in New Hampshire isn't really over the state's 22 delegates: It's about money and perception. Without an early win - or the perception of being a winner - campaigns run out of funds and enthusiasm. Few want to give dollars or votes to a ``loser.''
With the Iowa caucuses now behind them, the front-runners there - Rep. Richard Gephardt and Sen. Paul Simon - have to hone their political message to gain some ground on Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Those trailing - Jesse Jackson, Bruce Babbitt, Gary Hart, and Sen. Albert Gore - need a stronger showing here to prove their campaigns have the stamina to compete nationally.
``I believe in life after Iowa,'' says Mr. Babbitt, who finished fifth there. ``There is reincarnation in New Hampshire.''
The presidential contenders were eager to distinguish themselves among voters in Iowa, but they refrained from extensive negative campaigning there because the Iowans disapproved. The political landscape is different in the Granite State, however. Here, they don't mind if the candidates roll up their sleeves and go at it occasionally.
Before he left Iowa Tuesday, Senator Simon was professing moderation. ``My hope is there will be restraint on the part of all of us, but I think there will have to be comparisons of what we stand for.''
Once in New Hampshire, Mr. Simon wasted no time in making such comparisons, attacking Mr. Gephardt's ``flip-flops'' on nuclear power. With the troubled Seabrook nuclear power plant in the background and a high wind giving his bow tie wings, Simon blasted Gephardt before the cameras.
``I am pleased that Congressman Gephardt has become a strong advocate of nuclear safety, but it would be more convincing had it been voiced more vigorously before he began his race for the White House,'' Simon told the surrounding press corps.
Gephardt jabbed back: ``I think [Simon] is listening too much to his advisers who are telling him that he's got to say some things that I don't think he really believes.'' Each of the Democratic candidates has spoken out against the final licensing of the power plant.
Simon also had some ``comparisons'' for Mr. Dukakis.
``Do you want a manager, some technocrat,'' Simon asked, ``or do you want someone who really has some basic knowledge of the federal government?''
Simon's comments were in reference to Dukakis's boasts of reinvigorating the Massachusetts economy through strong executive leadership,
Dukakis was ready to respond.
``This campaign isn't a trip down memory lane,'' the governor said. ``I always have a feeling with Paul that he's talking about the '40s and '50s - and we're talking about the 1990s.''
In a speech at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, N.H., Dukakis also blasted Gephardt concerning his trade stance. ``The real choice has nothing to do with the choice between free trade and protectionism,'' Dukakis said. ``That's a 19th-century debate. We've got to prepare for the 21st century. The real question is whether we circle our wagons where we are or whether we move forward with energy and confidence.''
Mr. Babbitt, still smarting from his distant showing in Iowa, found a warm audience at Notre Dame College in Manchester. ``I did not come from Iowa with an overwhelming mandate,'' he said with a smile. ``I picked myself up off the floor, dusted myself off, and said we'll come roaring into New Hampshire.''
Sen. Albert Gore Jr., still relying on his Southern strategy and largely ignoring Iowa and New Hampshire, maintains that the Iowa caucuses had not ``generated any momentum for anyone.'' Mr. Gore is scheduled to arrive in New Hampshire today with singer Johnny Cash, who will ``walk the line'' with his fellow Southerner.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign is ``ecstatic'' over Mr. Jackson's fourth-place finish in Iowa. The black minister achieved two goals: to beat Bruce Babbitt - who had invested more money and time in the state - and to exceed Jackson's 1984 performance in the state. In a state that is only about 3 percent black, Jackson received 11 percent of the Democratic vote Monday, compared with just 1.5 percent in 1984.
Jackson is focusing on the South. He doesn't see New Hampshire as a make-or-break vote.
``I think New Hampshire is going to be a totally different story,'' says Gary Hart, when asked about his sixth-place finish in Iowa. ``You can't continue to campaign if you don't have any votes, but I'm going to get some votes. How and when I don't know,'' he told his audience at Central High School in Manchester. ``We'll get some here, and we'll get some in the South.''