John B. Anderson's four-day foray in New England, where his political base is strongest, was not the huge success his lieutenants had hoped for to reinvigorate a sputtering campaign.
Trying to quickly reach the threshold 15 percent national popularity that would qualify him for televised debates against his Republican and Democratic opponents for president, independent candidate Anderson is finding his "unity" campaign more and more an uphill battle. His increasing challenge is to persuade political activists that he is not just another politican and that there really is an "Anderson difference."
Besides the public exposure gained at an Aug. 18 downtown Boston rally and his Aug. 19 address to the national American Legion convention here, the Republican-turned-independnet had hoped to win the support of at least a few prominent Massachusetts Democrats -- former supporters of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's quest for the Democratic nomination.
Most of those with whom Mr. Anderson was anxious to huddle, however, were either unavailable or evinced little interest in meeting with him. While some may yet come into the Anderson camp, those few who met with the congressman made no commitments to join hi "unity campaign."
If any headway was made during the Massachusetts and Maine visit toward his selection of a running mate there was no such indication.
While Anderson insists the position was offered to no one, at least a couple of possibilities were sounded out, and presumably either showed little enthusiasm or failed to measure up to what the Illinois congressman seeks.
In wooing support from Democrats and Republicans who are displeased with both President Carter and Ronald Reagan, the Illinois congressman declared that those who join his campaign "are not disloyal to their party but rather are answering a higher loyalty to their country."
Republican liberals who have joined Anderson's Bay State team include Francis W. Hatch Jr., the Republican nominee fro governor two years ago, and Josiah A. Spaulding, a one-time state GOP chairman and the party's candidate for US Senate in 1970 against Senator Kennedy.
Anderson used his appearance before the American Legion convention to affirm his commitment to a strong defense and clarigy his positions on SALT II and the nuclear deterrent.
HE made clear that he does not support development of the MX missile, which he said would not only be ineffective but would cost as much as twice the $33 billion projected by the Department of Defense. Without being specific, he said he was certain American ingenuity could come up with a better way to protect US missiles from Soviet attack.
While supporting ratification of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, he termed its negotiation "a far more modest accomplishmetn" than the Carter administration would have Americans believe.
"We cannot have a strong defense without a strong economy," he declared, warning that America is "in danger of losing our economc pre-eminence."
Calling for increased emphasis on an armed forces comprising "skilled career men and women," the independent presidential candidate decried present military pay and asserted that it would be his goal to see to it those who serve are "fairly compensated."
He also criticized the national defense stance of Ronald Reagan, who was to address the legion convention on Wednesday. President Carter is to speak here Thursday.