It was early in the morning, but the congressman from New Hampshire was in full cry.
"Do not do this dastardly deed," Rep. Norman E. D'Amours (D-N.H.) shouted as members of the Democratic Party Commission on Presidential Nominations sipped their coffee and munched sweet rolls in the basement auditorium of the National Education Association Building.
At barely 9 a.m., eight hours of testimony lay ahead of them. But D'Amours, New Hampshire Gov. Hugh J. Gallen (D) and two leaders of the Granite State Democratic Party wanted to etch in stone a warning against any tampering with the date of the state's first-in-the-nation primary.
There were people around like William G. Mayer, a Harvard graduate student who would testify that "New Hampshire is a horrible place to start out the presidential selection process," "unrepresentative" of the national Democratic Party constituencies and dominated by the "vicious" conservatism of The Manchester Union-Leader.
Any number of members of the commission, headed by North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. (D), thought it was time to crack down on New Hampshire.
Three years ago, the Democrats ordered that all 1980 primaries and caucuses be between March 11 and June 11.
New Hampshire brushed aside the order and held its primary a week ahead of anyone else.
Ignoring the economic and publicity bonanza New Hampshire receives from its early primary, D'Amours, Gallen and state Democratic Chairman Rick Boyer made an emotional and philosophical case for keeping New Hampshire first.
Dismissing California's complaint that its June primary, involving 20 times as many voters, is slighted by the media in comparison with the massive coverage of New Hampshire's February frolic, Boyer said, "You have to go to a small place to find the truth."
"Where else," D'Amours asked, "can long-shot candidates get an opportunity to influence voters and win an election by pressing the flesh on a one-on-one, face-to-face basis, without being heavily financed?. . . Are we willing to destroy this last small procedure where a rank-and-file revolt against big-name, well-heeled, power-brokered and big-media-approved candidates and ideas might begin?"
D'Amours and Gallen urged the commission members not to be swayed by their feelings about the Union-Leader, the staunchly conservative newspaper whose influence has helped keep any Democratic presidential candidate from carrying the state since 1964.
"Those who feel some need to vindicate long-smouldering affronts to their sense of justice or decency by Manchester Union Leader publisher William Loeb must accept the face that he is no longer among us," D'Amours said. Loeb died in September.
"The days when that paper could make or break a candidate are gone," Gallen said.
And then the New Hampshire men made their clinching argument. No matter what the Democratic Party does, D'Amours said, the Republican legislature "will continue . . . our first-in-the-nation primary and will more likely than not continue the listing of Democratic candidates on the ballot."
Democratic presidential candidates, he added, will continue to seek the prestige of that victory, even if the state's handful of delegates is chosen separately later.
To those who hoped that, by delaying the primary a couple weeks, they might discourage presidential hopefuls from starting their campaigns so early, Gallen had an announcement: tickets are going fast for his fund-raising dinner two weeks from now in Manchester. The speaker will be Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio).