Along with the first family, Washington lobbyists are doing their part to keep the Martha's Vineyard economy humming.

A group of 850 small biotech firms is running 60-second ads on the island's only radio station pressing President Clinton and Congress to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"The president's plan and the other proposals in Congress need to take care of the sickest, and then the rest of us, before they provide new benefits to the Ross Perots and Lee Iacoccas," says a woman on one spot.

"I don't know if the president and others are playing politics with our health care," says the woman's husband, "but what we seniors need is a real drug benefit, one that helps out those who aren't rich when they need it the most."

The companies say they worry that cost containment provisions in Clinton's Medicare proposal could cut into profits and reduce research.

A spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization said the ads should air at least seven times a day all week on WMVY. The group figures this is one of the cheapest chances it will ever have to lobby the president. The station charges $65 for a 60-second spot.

Illinois County Chairmen Back Gore

Even a last-ditch plea from Adlai Stevenson III and Rep. William O. Lipinski could not stop the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen's Association from endorsing Vice President Gore last week.

In a letter to chairman John Gianulis, Stevenson and Lipinski urged the group of 96 downstate county officials to "let the people decide who our nominee will be in March 2000, not in mid-August of this year by an organization that in reality is seriously divided."

Written on Bill Bradley for President stationery, the letter said an endorsement by the chairmen would be "folly" because "many Democrats from throughout the state will not personally follow such an endorsement."

But the Gore machine collected the endorsement at a brunch. "By definition, party leaders must lead," Gianulis said in a press release. "That's why we voted for this endorsement. . . . We are sending [a] message early to the Democratic voters of Illinois."

Bush Leads in New Hampshire Poll

Two new polls tracking the George W. Bush roller coaster offer what could best be described as Bush's post-Iowa straw poll, pre-drug question controversy baseline.

In a New Hampshire survey taken last week, Bush collected 40 percent of respondents, easily leading the rest of the GOP field. Nationally, Bush received a 61 percent rating in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. In second place was Elizabeth Dole with 13 percent.

The New Hampshire poll by American Research Group shows Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gaining ground on Bush and pulling away from the remaining Republicans. McCain received 16 percent, about 3 percentage points better than a month earlier. Patrick J. Buchanan placed third in the poll with 8 percent.

Staff writer Dan Morgan contributed to this report.