AFTER months of jockeying for position, the United States presidential hopefuls finally have begun the four-month race for actual votes. Iowa and New Hampshire have had their moment of glory, and now it's on to the next round.
But what about those states way at the end of the primary election schedule?
Do folks who won't have a choice in the matter until May or June (when there may not be much left to choose) have any interest at all at this point? Are they losing sleep over whether Republican Pat Buchanan can do more than ankle-bite George Bush, or whether Democrat Bill Clinton has any other shoes to drop?
A survey of Democratic and Republican Party officials in such places indicates very little activity and only mild public interest in the race for nomination. "I would say it's less than usual," says Mark Gromek, executive director of the Republican organization in New Mexico, which has one of the next-to-last primaries on June 2 and where a Bush-Quayle reelection committee has just been formed.
"At the moment, there aren't any trends that you can even begin to decipher," says Vicente Ximenes, former executive director of the Democratic organization in New Mexico.
"It's a difficulty for states like this where the nomination is already in the bag," says North Dakota Democratic Party executive director Ted Quaday. Both parties in North Dakota are thinking of taking straw polls at their district conventions earlier in the spring just to try to generate some excitement, but GOP state chairman Kevin Cramer says that "it'll probably be a moot point by then" for Republicans.
"Some people are paying attention, but to be honest with you the masses of people aren't," says Al LaPierre, who runs the Democratic Party organization in Alabama. Many Alabama Democrats are attracted to fellow Southerner Bill Clinton, says Mr. LaPierre, but with the recent charges of marital infidelity and avoiding the draft, "it remains to be seen if it'll be a walk for Clinton."
This apparent lack of grass-roots interest is not limited to less-populous states with less to offer candidates. In New Jersey, where voters don't go to the polls until the first Tuesday in June, even most party activists "are just sitting back and watching," according to state Democratic Party executive director George Devanney. Only Clinton has done any serious fund-raising there, says Mr. Devanney.
If the race is close up to the end, such states "can be crucial," …