CONCORD, N.H., NOV. 16 -- It was a good thing for Gov. L. Douglas Wilder that 40 Northern Virginians made the 11-hour bus trip here today for the official opening of his presidential campaign headquarters.

Without the home folks, Wilder's storefront opening would have gone almost unnoticed because fewer than a dozen New Hampshire voters dropped by to hear Wilder or eat his red-white-and-blue cake declaring "Put America First."

Wilder, who ranked last in one poll here among six Democrats seeking their party's presidential nomination, also failed to attract much of a crowd later in the day in Keene, where he spoke in a restaurant that already had been visited by four other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

When he did get a chance to speak to a large group -- before 500 Democrats at a Friday night roast to raise funds for Rep. Dick Swett -- even the Virginians conceded he wasn't very funny.

In a night of speeches in which five of the six leading contenders for the Democratic nomination took turns poking fun at each other and themselves, Wilder drew some groans for his sharp-edged remarks about a fellow governor, Bill Clinton of Arkansas. An unsmiling Wilder said Clinton represents "the Reagan-Bush wing" of the Democratic Party. He resorted to a line from non-candidate Jesse L. Jackson for his biggest laugh, calling the Clinton-founded Democratic Leadership Council "Democrats of the Leisure Class."

When Clinton got his turn, he said Wilder is "jealous because the DLC has some ideas."

Told today that some thought his remarks at the roast were harsh and inappropriate, Wilder said he was "joking all the way."

Wilder's press secretary, Glenn Davidson, accused Clinton supporters of mounting a "stop Wilder movement" so that Clinton will be the only viable southerner when the candidates move on to Super Tuesday primaries after the Feb. 18 New Hampshire primary.

But Davidson conceded that "we're not as organized as the others" in the Granite State. He said Wilder considers today "the real kickoff" of his campaign.

"It's clear I'm going to have to spend more time here," Wilder said at the end of his 24-hour visit. "Surrogates won't do it; radio and TV won't do it."

Several of the Virginians who paid $125 each to make the bus trip said Wilder, in the words of one Fairfax woman, "seemed preoccupied" before the roast and during a reception for them.

"Maybe he is worried about {congressional} redistricting," said another Virginian. The Virginia General Assembly convenes in a special session Monday to draw lines for 11 House seats.

The news for Wilder was not all bad. He got an endorsement from former New Hampshire Republican state senator Mark Hounsell, an antiabortion activist who backed another Virginian, television evangelist Pat Robertson, in the GOP primary here four years ago.

Hounsell said he has renounced the GOP for independent status because President Bush has put the state into "a deep recession."

Hounsell said that although he is unhappy about Wilder's support of abortion rights, "Bush broke his promise to us, and no one in the field is of my persuasion." Besides, Hounsell said, abortion is "going to be a state issue."

As usually occurs, Wilder did better in one-on-one meetings than he did before groups.

After a question-and-answer session at The Pub in Keene, Patrick Eggleston, a biology professor at Keene State College, said, "this guy has some warmth," and placed him along with Clinton at the top of his list for consideration.

At Colony Mill, a factory converted to shops, James M. Hummel, the owner of a men's clothing shop, told Wilder that Democrats in Congress are to blame for the recession.

Hummel said he liked Wilder, but that as a lifelong Republican, "my grandfather would turn over in his grave if I voted for you."

Wilder replied: "That's what some people said in Virginia, but they did it anyway."