MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Presidential candidates looking for a last-minute spark for a win today in the crucial New Hampshire primary pitched their wares to thousands of voters window-shopping for candidates at a large shopping mall.
Seven of the 12 Democratic and Republican hopefuls pleaded for votes in Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary while surrogates - including Vice President George Bush's niece, Robin Ellis -- worked the crowd at Manchester's Mall of New Hampshire.
Bush and Senate Republican leader Robert Dole of Kansas and former television evangelist Pat Robertson did not appear Monday at the 'Rally Finale.' Democrats Michael Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts, and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri also bypassed the event.
Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois said the response to his call for a return to traditional Democratic values was 'terrific,' adding he was 'really hopeful' about placing second behind Dukakis in today's vote.
'There's a lot on undecided,' added fellow Democrat former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt.
While supporters carried banners touting their choice, the uncommitted huddled around television monitors spread throughout the jammed mall looking for clues on how to vote.
'I decided today,' said Larry Doyle of Hampstead, sporting a new Jack Kemp button. 'Kemp is the kind of guy who is an economic conservative and I am frankly not willing to give up on Reaganomics.'
The Republican New York congressman was not the choice of Lynn Bedard of Manchester, selling sweatshirts from a cart in the middle of the mall.
'He's got World War III written all over him,' she said. 'The man has a lot of nerve comparing himself to Thomas Jefferson.'
'I'm looking for someone who's going to represent the veteran as well as the money people,' said Vietnam veteran George Keech of Deerfield, offering scorn for all Democrats in general and Dukakis in particular.
'I don't see any leaders on the Democratic side. They call it Taxachusetts for a reason.'
Pauline and Fred Shepard of Hudson said the appearance of former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart confirmed their decision to back the Democrat who withdrew from the race following reports of his relationship with Miami model Donna Rice and then returned eight months later.
'We like what he stands for,' she said. 'He had a bad experience. I think he's for the people.'
'What he did has nothing to do with being president,' her husband added.
Business slowed to a crawl during the two-hour long series of speeches, but the manager of one store offered no complaints.
'Our sales are up today,' said Tape World manager Matt Luther. 'It's great.'