NEWPORT, N.H., JUNE 6 -- Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who happened to be in the neighborhood, dropped in on a political rally in this small town tonight after making a graduation speech at Harvard University, just two hours down the road.

While insisting that he isn't interested in national office, Wilder unveiled an agenda, complete with attacks on the Republicans, that sounded like that of a would-be candidate here in the New England state that is a traditional testing ground for would-be presidents.

Wilder's protestations to the contrary, the conservative Manchester Union Leader said in an editorial Tuesday that Wilder could win New Hampshire's Democratic presidential primary in 1992.

The editorial went on to criticize the Virginia governor for positions on issues "more like Silly Putty" than being "set in concrete."

The seeming inconsistency in Wilder's philosophy was on display in his two speeches today.

Here in rural Sullivan County, Wilder touted his moderate-to-conservative "New Mainstream" philosophy, which he defines as a combination of fiscal integrity and social conscience "capable of attracting the support needed at the national level to reclaim 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

At Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Wilder sounded more like the liberal that he was during his 16-year legislative career.

There was no mention of his "new mainstream." Instead, Wilder praised the policies of JFK and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 22 years ago today.

"Like many of you," Wilder told the school's 400 graduates, "Robert Kennedy was born into a life of advantages but -- as some of you will do -- he devoted his life to the disadvantaged."

Wilder teasingly explained that he was going to New Hampshire to help fellow Democrats get elected to statewide office later this year, "not to be involved with the {1992 presidential} primary. That's later."

Speaking to a partisan fund-raising rally in the "Opera House" in this county seat crossroads in central New Hampshire, Wilder lambasted the GOP for presiding over health and Medicaid programs that are in "shambles"; an education system that "works to nobody's satisfaction"; and for talking a good game, rather than "fighting the good fight" on drugs.

Wilder sounded like the chief executive of the federal government, rather than a governor whose administration is not yet five months old, when he said, "Today, I am calling for the creation of a nonpartisan independent National Commission of Inquiry" to investigate the savings and loan industry, which he said may be involved in "the worst scandal in U.S. history."

Wilder's speech before an audience of 150 -- a quarter of whom were either New Hampshire Democratic candidates or reporters, including more than a dozen from out of state -- was interrupted by enthusiastic applause three times. His call for a savings and loan investigation and a warning about nuclear proliferation, two of the global topics he addressed, produced the most prolonged responses.

The inevitable comparison between Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, and two-time presidential candidate Jesse L. Jackson, dogged Wilder at Harvard, as it does nearly everywhere else.

Linda Killiam, who chaired the committee that determined that Wilder was the top choice of the graduates for "Class Day" speaker, told the 600 people who packed the hall that she had tried to contact Jackson to get an anecdote about Wilder, but couldn't reach him.

"He must already be in New Hampshire," Killiam joked.

Earlier today, appearing on the television program "Today," sitting on a chair on the Mall in Washington, Wilder said his busy out-of-state speaking schedule, which includes a two-day swing through Iowa later this month, is largely the result of coincidence.

The governor told "Today" host Bryant Gumbel that "once people in Iowa found that I was going to be in New Hampshire, they said, 'Why not come to our place?' "