Republican Presidential candidates continued to criticize one another across southern New Hampshire, each straining for an accusation or a gimmick or a snippet of film that would give them an edge in the primary voting Tuesday.
While the Republicans were arguing, President Clinton flew in on Air Force One and, in a series of short speeches across the state, outlined issues like access to college education and health care that he said would form the basis of his campaign for re-election.
On another day when issues took a back seat to bickering among Republicans, Pat Buchanan, who appears to be running neck-and-neck with Sen. Bob Dole, contended that the Dole campaign was smearing him with telephone calls to voters that distorted his positions.
Dole denied the accusation and spent most of the day, with a foot and a half of new snow on the ground, racing through a series of stops intended mostly for photographers and television cameras.
In North Hampton, Lamar Alexander, the most animated and pugnacious he has been all week, waved a pair of L.L. Bean hip boots. While the cameras clicked and whirred, he explained that he had bought the boots to protect him from all the muck his opponents were wallowing in.
Later, while Alexander was speaking in Portsmouth, several members of the Tennessee Conservative Union, brought to New Hampshire by the Dole campaign, passed out fliers about how Alexander had raised taxes when he was governor of Tennessee.
The fourth of the leading candidates, Steve Forbes, used a 1040 tax form and a postcard as his props for the cameras as he stressed the simplicity of a flat tax, the issue that first propelled him out of the pack and into contention here. Forbes maintains that if his proposal becomes law, taxpayers could file their tax returns on a postcard.
Running well behind the others and unable to attract crowds at his campaign stops, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana spoke in Bedford before about 150 high school students and civic leaders bused in from Indiana to distribute his campaign literature door to door.
At one of several stops Saturday, President Clinton said in the town square in Keene that he was running against cynicism and apathy. Republicans, he said, favored “short-term gain instead of the long-term interest of the country.”
Buchanan accused Dole of using what are known as push polls, in which campaign workers posing as poll takers call voters and ask questions that include disparaging remarks about rivals.
In this instance, according to Buchanan, Dole workers asked voters what they would think about Buchanan if they knew he believed that women should not work and that South Korea and Japan should be armed with nuclear weapons.
“The purpose of it is to destroy the confidence of people who are for me, to raise questions for folks who are moving my way,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan, who worked in the Nixon White House, denied the views attributed to him and said he knew all about dirty tricks. “I am a graduate of the Richard Nixon school of politics,” he declared.
Dole, skipping from one photo backdrop to another, wore a bright orange parka and black boots and rode in the passenger seat of a snowplow that cleared two driveways in Salem, including one at the home of former Gov. John Sununu.
“We’re not engaged in any smear tactics,” Dole told reporters. “We’re doing the best we can to keep our message positive.”
By riding in the snowplow, Dole took a page from George Bush’s campaign script. Eight years ago, Bush shoveled snow and took the wheel of a snowplow, demonstrating his vigor. Dole, unable to use his right arm because of World War II injuries, was relegated to more passive activities.
Dole feels the contrasting pictures of the two of them in a snowstorm were in part the reason for his defeat in the 1988 primary here.
Alexander acknowledged that taxes had gone up while he was governor, saying it was necessary for him to balance the budget and win a triple-A bond rating for his state and a pay increase for teachers.
“I cannot imagine Senator Dole giving me a sermon on taxes and spending,” he said. “Since Bob Dole’s been in Washington, spending has gone up 1,400 percent, the deficit’s gone up 6,000 percent and he’s raised taxes time after time.”
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