Tsongas Maps Strategy For Keeping His Lead

PAUL TSONGAS, flush from his New Hampshire victory, now sets out to prove that he is more than a regional phenomenon.

Within hours after defeating Gov. Bill Clinton and three other major Democratic rivals in New Hampshire's Democratic Party primary, former United States Senator Tsongas set out on a whirlwind, five-day tour that will bring him to several political battlegrounds - Maryland, Georgia, Maine, and South Dakota.

Tsongas also will drop into New York City for all-important fund-raisers that are essential to keep his drive alive as he expands his effort across the country.

Dennis Kanin, Tsongas's campaign manager, says the next breakthrough for his candidate could come quickly - in Maine, which holds its presidential caucuses on Sunday.

After that, all the contenders face a challenging two weeks before the big Super Tuesday showdown March 10, when 11 states have primaries. Prior to Super Tuesday there are primaries in South Dakota, Georgia, Maryland, Colorado, and South Carolina; and caucuses in Idaho, Minnesota, Utah, American Samoa, Arizona, Washington state, Wyoming, and Nevada.

Because of the compressed time frame, Tsongas will be severely tested on three fronts: fund-raising, campaign organizing, and getting out his political message. In New Hampshire, Tsongas had almost unlimited time to schmooze with voters, pass out autographed copies of his economic plan for America, and linger over small-town lunch counters with voters. New Hampshire is the essence of person-to-person politics.

Now the presidential campaign moves to a new dimension. Candidates race from airport to airport. The regions to be covered are so large that candidates must rely on paid advertising to explain their messages. The campaign is fast, expensive, and requires careful organization.

Before the primary, the Tsongas campaign was starved for funds, but his victory here has turned on the cash spigots. "Money is way up," Mr. Kanin says happily. "Clinton is ahead of us, but I think we are competitive ... in the sense that we have enough to do what we need to do."

He explains: "You can be outspent on television 2 to 1 and that doesn't necessarily mean anything. It's the message that is getting across on those television ads [that is important]." He adds that Mr. Clinton, US Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, and US Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa "all outspent us on television in New Hampshire. Yet over that same period we were rising in the polls. I think voters are much more interested in what's happening out there in real life than what some consultant has put together for 3 0 seconds [of advertising on TV]."

Even so, Kanin hesitates when asked about the huge, expensive Texas primary on Super Tuesday.

"You are talking about a state with approximately 20 media markets," he says. "We have to make a decision over the next couple of weeks how much money we are prepared to spend there."

The groundwork for Super Tuesday could be laid a week earlier, on March 3, when Governor Clinton, Mr. Tsongas, and the other candidates tangle in Maryland, Georgia, Colorado, and Washington.

Tsongas appears to be a strong second to Clinton in Maryland. In Colorado, Senator Kerrey, who is from neighboring Nebraska, has the advantage, but Tsongas will make an effort.

Kanin particularly likes the Tsongas prospects in Washington, which provides something of a neutral battleground for all the Democratic candidates. Sources in Washington indicate that Tsongas could do very well there.

Georgia, on the other hand, looks like Clinton country at this time. Kanin says: "I think most people would concede Georgia would be going to Clinton. The entire Democratic establishment is supporting him in Georgia."

While Tsongas feels some pressure to prove himself over the next three weeks, Kanin says Clinton is also under the gun. So far, the former front-runner has lost Iowa and New Hampshire, and probably won't win in Maine or South Dakota, the next two contests. (South Dakota is expected to be mainly a fight between Senators Harkin and Kerrey.)

Although Clinton is favored in Georgia, he has few other favorable opportunities coming up before Super Tuesday, which is supposed to be his day in the sun. "Bill Clinton is going to have to win a few of the earlier primaries if he is going to survive Super Tuesday," Kanin says.

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