PORTLAND, MAINE, DEC. 16 -- Buoyed by eloquent words of support from his wife, Gary Hart blitzed across snowy New England today, casting himself as a principled and patriotic outsider whose ideas were powerful enough to be heard over the skepticism of the political establishment.

On the second day of his reborn presidential candidacy, Hart -- reinstated as the Democratic leader in national polls, but a leader with extremely high public disapproval -- pumped hands at a factory gate in Nashua, N.H., gave a foreign policy lecture and fielded a question about his personal life before an audience of 700 students shrieking with excitement in Dover, N.H., and worked the downtown shopping district here.

The electricity of the campaign day contrasted with continued skepticism among political professionals about Hart's standing and with some early polling that indicates the former Colorado senator has serious hurdles before him. An ABC News poll conducted Tuesday night indicates that 49 percent of the American public views Hart unfavorably and four in 10 would not vote for him under any circumstances.

The most dramatic moment of Hart's campaign day came in mid-afternoon when his wife, Lee, positioned herself on a chilly street corner amid a throng of camera crews and reporters and announced that she wanted to make a few remarks. A hush fell over the press corps, which numbered nearly 100.

"Obviously, I am here not because someone forced me to be here, but because I believe very strongly in Gary Hart," she said, her husband at her side and the two of them circled closely by the very press that has probed so deeply into the intimate details of their married life.

"I have never wanted my husband to be president . . . . But I have always put my own personal feelings aside, because I believe in a person, not because he is my husband, but because I have felt he has something to offer to this country.

"That support is deeper today than it ever has been . . . .

"Andrea, John {their children} and I and Gary as individuals and as a family have experienced much pain in the last several months. We have shared {that and} . . . we are well and strong today . . . .

"I remember well a statement that Gary made many years ago. 'The easy path is the beaten path. But the beaten path seldom leads to the future.' We are happy to be on this unbeaten path because we love this country and we have great hope for its future . . . . "

With those words, Hart picked up what may prove to be his most valuable "endorsement" of the campaign -- and a formidable shield against the character scrutiny that will doubtless continue.

He, like his wife, appeared to relish his campaign day on the unbeaten path. Hart has always been most comfortable as the outsider, whether as campaign manager for longshot Sen. George S. McGovern (D-S.D.) in 1972 or as a long-shot candidate himself in 1984.

"One thing Gary Hart loves is to be out there alone when all the other voices are saying, 'No, wait.' " said a longtime Hart aide who worked in the 1984 and 1988 campaigns.

Hart reiterated today that he would run a largely guerrilla effort this time. He lunched privately here with 15 former supporters. "I had decided to get out of politics entirely -- I was disgusted," said David Mulhearn, a 1984 Hart delegate who attended the lunch. "But I'm back. He brings ideas and an excitement that none of the other candidates do."

Not everyone was so swayed -- particularly the other Democratic candidates, who faced a new campaign today and began to take off the gloves.

Former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt accused Hart of "a disturbing tone of arrogance" in his rationale for reentering the race. "He says he got out of the race because of the failures of the media and that he's getting back into the race because of the failures of the other candidates. Well, he's wrong on both counts."

During this first campaign swing, woman-in-the-street opinion about Hart was sharply divided.

"What a jerk! I hope he's wasting his time," said Paula Crowdle, a claims adjuster, who watched the Hart entourage from a distance. "What kind of judgment does a man have who takes a yacht trip with a woman of questionable character in the middle of a presidential campaign?"

"I think he's showing a lot of guts," said Marriane Adkins. "I wouldn't vote for him, but I don't think what he did was so terrible."

At Dover High School, Hart got a star-treatment reception from students. After Hart's lecture on his foreign policy views, a student asked if the candidate thought politicians had the right to deliberately mislead the public, and asked about his relationship with Miami model Donna Rice.

"No, I don't think they do have a right to mislead the public," Hart said. "But on the other hand, the public does not have a right to know everything about everybody's personal and private life."

The response brought the loudest and longest cheer from the students. The question followed another in which a student asked Hart how the situation has changed since he dropped out of the race.

"There is not the rather intense and heated environment of last May," Hart said, adding, "It's kind of an act of faith on our part."

He added that the news media and political power brokers should not call the shots in the race for the White House.

"I should not decide, the press should not decide, the politicians in Washington should not decide; you ought to decide. Let the people decide," he said.

A rash of polling overnight indicated that Hart has become a major factor in the Democratic race. The ABC poll of 500 respondents, including 244 Democrats or those leaning Democratic, shows him the choice of 28 percent for the nomination, with Jesse L. Jackson second at 22 percent.

Those findings are basically consistent with other overnight polls, but the high negative rating -- 49 percent disapproval -- is considered by many political analysts a nearly impossible hurdle.

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