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After New Hampshire, The Democratic Race A Lesson in Regional Geography

February 14, 1992

ATLANTA (AP) _ Logic dictates that Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey head West from New Hampshire. But he went to Georgia instead, campaigning with one of the New South’s political dynamos, state Rep. ″Able Mabel″ Thomas.

As Kerrey told an audience why he should be president, Thomas was bragging about how she could help him get there. But, ″I can’t do much without any money and I don’t have any right now,″ she said.

Campaign money is not yet flowing South, as the Democratic presidential campaigns are pouring most of their resources into New Hampshire.

The candidates are praying for a boost that will propel them into the next dozen state contests, where a total of 497 delegates can be collected before the biggest prize day of the season - Super Tuesday.

These dozen ″window″ states will winnow the field before March 10, when 11 mostly Southern states hold primaries or caucuses, and give the candidates lessons in regional politics.

″The New Hampshire winner is in the driver’s seat,″ said Democratic strategist Thomas Donilon. ″Everyone else has to carefully pick targets and try to get some victories.″

Going into New Hampshire, most candidates have one or two of these targets in mind. Kerrey, for example, is strong in South Dakota and Colorado. Tom Harkin, an Iowa senator, is the early favorite in Minnesota and competitive in South Dakota. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton has a head start in Georgia and South Carolina.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas is counting on a strong New Hampshire showing to propel him into Maine and beyond. Washington state is the closest former California Gov. Jerry Brown has to a regional favorite, although he is not considered a leading contender even there.

A competitive wild card among the window states is Maryland, where Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey and Tsongas all are making significant efforts. Kerrey and Clinton also have made preliminary pushes in Nevada.

Because they are low on money, the candidates have barely made efforts in several of the states in this group: Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah, as well as American Samoa.

″We’ve had a lot of relatives (of candidates) so far and we’re waiting for the real thing after New Hampshire,″ said Arizona Democratic Party executive director Melodee Jackson. ″Of course, it remains to be seen who will still be around March 7.″

Julie Dedman, executive secretary of the Idaho Democratic Party, which holds its caucuses March 3, laughed when asked about presidential campaign activity. ″No one even has an office set up yet,″ she said. Harkin, Kerrey and Clinton, however, do have Idaho supporters doing preliminary work.

The first cut could come in New Hampshire, where Tsongas needs a win and the bottom two candidates likely will face severe money troubles. Any shakeup in the field will scramble the strategies for states that follow.

″New Hampshire serves the role of telling voters in the later states what the deal is, who’s for real,″ said Democratic National Committee political director Paul Tully. ″Someone who does well in New Hampshire will probably get a hearing in the other places even if they are outside the home region.″

That’s why Kerrey was in Georgia recently over the objection of his New Hampshire staff: if Clinton falters and Kerrey surges in the North, the Nebraskan will try his hand in Clinton’s Southern base.

″I am trying to encourage people who are supporting Bill Clinton to make me their No. 2 choice,″ Kerrey said during his trip.

Clinton’s early campaign forays to Colorado and South Dakota were for exactly the same reason - if Kerrey sputters out of New Hampshire and Clinton has momentum, he’ll try to cross the regional lines as well. Hillary Clinton was in those states on behalf of her husband last week.

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