THE strobe lights and vigorous political chants that marked rallies for Patrick Buchanan on the eve of the first national primary were absent.
It was now the night of the last primaries, and the insurgent Republican candidate had returned to New Hampshire to thank those who had given him the highest returns of his presidential campaign.
If anyone in the hand-picked group of supporters was disappointed that Mr. Buchanan had later failed to extend the 37 percent of the vote he won in February's New Hampshire primary, you wouldn't know it.
"This campaign accomplished everything but the nomination," says Chris Tremblay, who had been Buchanan's advance man in New Hampshire. "Ask John Frohnmayer if Patrick Buchanan accomplished anything" (The controversial former chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts was ousted three days after the New Hampshire primary.)
Buchanan makes many of the same points in a tight speech to a responsive crowd.
* In the New Hampshire primary, "Buchanan's Brigade sent the hollow army of King George back over the border." (Cheers.)
* "We buried David Duke 4 to 1. He hasn't been heard from since Super Tuesday." (Applause.)
* "They gave me the head of John Frohnmayer ... on a platter. It wasn't enough." (Cheers.)
* "We gave birth in New Hampshire to the great protest movement that is sweeping the country. Take this guy Perot...." (He pauses to smile as cries of "Who?" "Who?" run through the crowd.) "He's calling for a phaseout of foreign aid, says there's too many registered agents of influence in Washington, D.C. Does this sound familiar?"
As to who his supporters should back in November's likely three-man race, Buchanan offers no direction beyond the promise that "we intend to stay inside this party and work for victory in November, but we will take it back no matter how long it takes."
But many here are not so sure they will back the Republican Party in November. "I'm in a real dilemma because obviously George Bush doesn't represent my views," says Nancy Hodgon, who drove 2-1/2 hours from the northern town of Lancaster. "I can't vote for a Democrat.... Perot will reap the benefits. But Perot is not Pat Buchanan.
"I'm amazed that he feels so loyal to the Republican Party, because they haven't been loyal to him," she adds. "The Newt Gingriches should have rushed to his defense."
Many others in the audience are bitter over the strong attacks against their candidate from party conservatives. For Buchanan delegate Richard Kennedy, the choice of who to support "depends on how Buchanan is treated at the convention."
Campaign manager and sister Angela "Bay" Buchanan attributes the loss to "establishment politics."
"That's why Brown and Buchanan couldn't win," she says. "They had to take over their party, which is what we'll do the next time. Perot is successful because he's independent of this."
Alan Horlick, like many in this audience, says he is looking for a new place to put his "political energies." The retired New Hampshire computer contractor says he left his retirement home in Florida to join the campaign immediately after Buchanan announced his candidacy: "My wife and I took a day and a half to pack and I've been at headquarters ever since.
"But when it became evident that Buchanan would not be nominated, I went to Perot's headquarters in Manchester and said, `I'll put my heart and soul into this campaign if you tell me what he stands for.' They couldn't say. They still haven't said. But I'll still vote for Perot over Bush or Clinton....Just for a change," he says. "We need to rattle the Congress."