Robertson Courts New Hampshire Conservatives, Shuns Evangelist Label With AM-Political Rdp
DONALD M. ROTHBERG
Feb. 10, 1988
Robertson Courts New Hampshire Conservatives, Shuns Evangelist Label With AM-Political Rdp Bjt
LANCASTER, N.H. (AP) _ Pat Robertson said Wednesday his strong showing in the Iowa presidential caucuses has given his candidacy credibility and will enable him to win the conservative vote in New Hampshire.
Robertson, who finished second to Bob Dole in Iowa's Republican caucuses, spent the day campaigning in the state's North Country where votes are sparse but conservatism is strong.
''The reason I'm here in these smaller towns is that these are very conservative, family oriented, pro-American people who want America to be first in the world,'' he said, predicting that he would get ''50 to 60 percent of the vote in this area and that is going to go a long way toward giving me a substantial finish in the New Hampshire primary.''
On another subject, in recent days Robertson has responded aggressively to reporters who asked him about his background as an evangelist, particularly a television evangelist.
Asked if he was concerned that the subject would dog his campaign, Robertson replied, ''No, not really. I've answered certain religious questions give or take 500 times, so I really think this is just sort of an exercise reporters like to go through to see if they can get my goat.''
A moment later, a reporter holding a microphone asked, ''Why do you resent being referred to as a TV evangelist?''
''Would you like to be called a cameraman?'' asked Robertson. ''Are you a cameraman?''
''I'm a reporter,'' said the questioner.
''That's right,'' said Robertson. ''Well, I'm an owner and operator of the fifth largest cable network in America.''
Kerry Moody, a campaign spokesman, said Robertson probably will run ads in New Hampshire somewhat similar to one in Iowa which had pictures of Robertson and the late President John F. Kennedy. The ad contended Robertson was facing the same kind of religious bigotry Kennedy faced when people objected to his presidential candidacy because he was Roman Catholic.
However, Moody said the New Hampshire version would not feature Kennedy.
''The reason we ran that ad in Iowa is there was an opportunity for Democrats to vote in the Republican caucuses. That is not the case here,'' he said.
Earlier Robertson delivered a tough anti-Soviet speech at the Balsams resort hotel where the 34 voters of Dixville Notch, all of them hotel employees, traditionally cast the first votes in New Hampshire elections.
''I as president do not intend to be reactive to Soviet initiatives,'' he said.
He denounced the pending treaty to eliminate medium-range nuclear missiles, saying it would give the Soviets domination of Europe.
With former Gov. Meldrim Thomson at his side, Robertson appealed for support in next Tuesday's Republican presidential primary.
''I believe I'm on the winning edge,'' he said.
Later, in Groveton, he said, ''I am emerging in New Hampshire as the conservative candidate who has an opportunity to win the election. ... The conservatives up here will unify behind me.''
Moody said the campaign hoped that Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and former Gov. Pete du Pont of Delaware, also bidding for conservative votes, would be forced out of the race if Robertson finished third or better in New Hampshire.
Thomson, who is Robertson's New Hampshire campaign chairman, said he thought his candidate could carry the state but ''it's going to be real tough because all of the establishment is with the governor who is behind (Vice President George) Bush.''
Gov. John Sununu is a national co-chairman of the Bush campaign.
Thomson said the Assembly of God churches, which were a base of Robertson strength in Iowa, are the fastest growing denomination in New Hampshire.
Because of Bush's poor showing in Iowa and Robertson's surprising strength there, Thomson said that in New Hampshire, ''the whole pot is boiling now and it won't simmer off until Monday.''