Republicans: Mining the Mother Lode

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Returning to New Hampshire last week, George Romney assiduously prospected the Granite State for votes in its March 12 presidential primary. It was mechanized mining, aided by the Michigan Governor's computerized mailing drive and highlighted by a calculated schedule of stops where support seemed most likely.

From Nashua to Dixville Notch, he sermonized in boys' school and fish factory, Y.M.C.A. and insurance office, shopping center and ski resort. Mostly he campaigned in living rooms, where he tapped a veritable mother lode.

The women gathered, burbling babes on many laps, in a kaffeeklatsch campaign so stimulating to Romney's cause that an undercover Nixonite grated: "We ought to get this going for Nixon now." Sipping coffee, munching doughnuts, shaking Romney's hand, the women heard him inveigh against godlessness, immorality, sloth, the decline of the family, even the English, whom he characterized as interested only in "two hots and a cot," or two square meals and a place to sleep. When it came to Viet Nam, however, so vague were his exhortations for the most part that even hard-liners—of whom New Hampshire has a plenitude—often wagged their heads in accord with what they thought he said. When Romney called for the U.S. to "go on the peace offensive," one middle-aged woman chortled: "I like what he wants to do. go in there and get it over with. We're wasting too much time."

"I feel I've made some progress," said Romney at week's end. Indeed, his staffers now have hopes that the overwhelming Nixon support in New Hampshire may be as shallow as it is wide. Even Nixon's forces are skeptical of one early poll showing Romney behind 5 to 1. Nixonites feel that this is merely a ploy to make even slight gains seem a Romney triumph. They may well be, since enthusiasm for a Ronald Reagan write-in—which would siphon off Nixon strength—is evaporating. As if this were not enough woe for Romney, six Nelson Rockefeller supporters paid the $10 fee to file as G.O.P. convention delegate candidates on the secondary part of the ballot, and Rocky's 1964 New Hampshire chairman continues to contemplate a Granite State write-in for the Rock.