New Hampshire voters are leaning heavily to the three "R's" -- Republican Ronald Reagan -- in their preference for president. The former California governor is way out front in public opinion polls here, and even some of the most ardent Democratic activists concede that Jimmy Carter, their party's nominee, stands little chance of winning this state.
Some say they would not be surprised if the President not only finished well behind Mr. Reagan but also narrowly behind independent candidate John B. Anderson.
Much could depend on to what extent Democrats who favored US Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts in the party's presidential primary last Feb. 26, support the re-election-bent President.
While all three presidential contenders have campaign headquarters well stocked with campaign literature, there is comparatively little visible activity. What activity there is is overshadowed by the efforts of those running for other offices.
Since winning the February presidential primary here, Reagan has directed his campaign activity elsewhere, relying on his New Hampshire organization, headed by former GOP Gov. Lane Dwinnel, and on strong continuing support from the Manchester Union Leader (and its publisher, William Loeb) to sustain and Broaden his voter support.
Granite staters have seen little of the presidential candidates since the primary. The Carter forces in particular may have long since all but written off New Hampshire -- at least partially underscored by the fact that the President has not been in the state for the past 18 months and his state campaign chairman, Gov. Hugh Gallen, is involved with his own re-election pursuits.
Thus far, leaders of the pro-Kennedy drive have done little more than formally endorse the President, if that. A few, like US Sen. John Durkin and Executive Councilor Dudley Dudley also are engaged in their own re-election efforts. Most, however, appear either to be sitting out the campaign or are helping candidates for other offices.
Whatever prospects there might have been for a close battle for New Hampshire's four electoral votes were substantially weakened by a mid-September poll by the Political Science Department at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which showed Reagan favored by 45 percent of the respondents to 20 percent for Carter and 17 percent for Mr. Anderson. The remaining 19 percent were undecided.
GOP leaders contend that their own samplings inkey legislative districts indicate Reagan may have an even more commanding lead. They are considerably less certain, however, as to the length of Reagan's coattails.
If the Republican presidential nominee wins 55 percent of the vote in a three-way contest it should help pull along other members of the party ticket, says state GOP chairman Carroll Jones.The UNH poll, for example, shows both party's gubernatorial nominee, former Gov. Meldrim Thomson, and its candidate for the US Senate, Warren Rudman, substantially trailing their Democratic foes.
Although there are more Republicans than Democrats or independents in New Hampshire, the state no longer is the rockribbed GOP bastion it once was. Republicans now comprise but 36 percent of the electorate.