The governor of the nation's first primary state today said President Carter would "send a battleship full of oil into Portsmouth Harbor" before he would let New Hampshire voters go cold this winter.
Gov. Hugh J. Gallen, chairman of the state Carter-Mondale campaign, reaffirmed his faith in the president's commitment to provide adequate supplies of home heating fuel to New England, the most oil-dependent region in the country.
New Hampshire currently faces a 50 percent shortage of home heating oil, and state energy officials are warning of a potential crisis this winter unless the Department of Energy orders oil companies to boost production levels.
Carter campaign officials concede that the president's performance on energy issues could decide the outcome of the country's first two primaries, those in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where well-organized drives to draft Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) as the party's 1980 standard-bearer have begun.
Gallen assured reporters, "If we ran into extreme difficulties it wouldn't surprise me to see them [the White House] send a battleship full of oil into Portsmouth Harbor so we can have oil in New England."
The president "knows the problems of New Hampshire. He's walked these streets in the winter time, and when he tells me that he is going to be working with the New England states to assure they're no longer at the end of the pipeline on many of these issues, I take the gentleman at his word," Gallen said.
Flanked by top Democrats at a news conference here at the Carter-Mondale northeast headquarters, Gallen called the president's pledge this week of 1.5 million barrels of kerosene and heating oil to Iran "an insurance policy" and "a wise political decision with long-range benefits to this country."
"In December, January and February, when I need . . . almost a million barrels of oil a day coming into this country, that's when I'm going to have to have the assistance of Iran, and I hope I'm not going to bite my nose to spite my face by shutting off one tankload," the governor said in describing the president's rationale.
The shipment of kerosene to Iran is a particularly sensitive issue, in a state where the fuel is used to heat thousands of mobile homes.
Sen. John A. Durkin (D-N.H.), who had attacked the president's energy policy and has threatened to wage a favorite-son candidacy, wired the president when he heard about the proposed sale to Iran.
Durkin said in his telegram that he was "shocked and dismayed" that the president authorized the deal when New England "is faced with the very real prospect of severe shortage of home heating oil" and a "dire shortage of kerosene."
Gallen called the news conference today to release a list of 734 Carter-Mondale campaign committee members, solicited through an Aug. 1 mailing of 5,000 letters signed by the governor.
The list of leading Democrats, released at a time when the president's popularity appears to be foundering nationwide, represents the largest campaign committee in the history of New Hampshire primary politicking, according to Chris Brown, national deputy chairman of the Carter-Mondale effort.