George Bush appeared today to have partially offset his embarrassing defeat in the New Hampshire primary by finishing in an apparent dead heat with Ronald Reagan in the race for delegates in the Minnesota precinct caucuses.
Bush and Reagan each received 33 percent of the delegates elected in the Independent-Republican party caucuses Tuesday night, according to a survey of sample precincts conducted by the Minneapolis Star, CBS News and the League of Women Voters.
In the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucuses, President Carter maintained the commanding lead he established Tuesday night as more complete returns filtered in. According to the sample survey, Carter captured 61 percent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy 8 percent, California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. 3 percent, and 27 percent were elected on uncommitted slates.
The biggest surprise of the Republican caucuses was an impressive third-place finish by Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois, who mustered widespread student support that cut severely into Bush strength in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.
Anderson, whose long-shot bid for the presidency has long been looking for any good news, received 10 percent of the delegates in sample precincts, the same number as Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee. But Anderson had more actual delegates, held a 2 percentage point lead in a separate non-binding straw ballot taken at the caucuses, and appeared to have a good chance of capturing first place in the 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis.
The big loser was John Connally, the former Texas governor who spent more time and money in Minnesota than any GOP rival. Connally finished a weak fifth with only 5 percent of the delegates sampled. He was followed by former president Gerald Ford, who isn't a candidate, and Rep. Philip Crane with 3 percent each.
One week ago, Anderson's Minnesota supporters had predicted a fifth-place finish. "We're ecstatic with the Minnesota returns," said Brenda Eddy, associate director of Anderson's campaign.
Anderson, who made only one trip to Minnesota, in October, ran a shoestring campaign here with only a $15,000 budget and three paid staff members. Connally had a paid staff of 14 and spent $150,000; Bush and Reagan spent an estimated $100,000 each.
The Minneaspolis Star-CBS survey of Democrats found broad support for Carter among both liberals and conservatives in the home state of his vice president, Walter Mondale, who made five trips to the state since Jan. 1.
Kennedy apparently made some inroads with his attacks on Carter's handling of the economy, which 36 percent of those surveyed said was the president's greatest weakness. But Kennedy's criticism of the president's foreign policy moves drew negative reviews from one-fourth of those polled.
Official results of the caucuses, the first step in a multi-tiered process of delegate selection, won't be known for days or even weeks. All of the Democratic results are reported by mail. The Independent-Republicans, as the GOP is known here, attempted to make a straw poll at the 4,000 caucuses, but its computer tally system broke down and its results are questionable. The last results from that poll showed Reagan ahead of Bush, 33 to 30 percent.