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O'Neill clan suffers a campaign setback in Massachusetts

House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. may be spending a lot less time than he anticipated on the political campaign trail this summer, at least in his home state.

This became all but certain May 6 when his son, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Thomas P. O'Neill III, abandoned a quest for the commonwealth's governorship.

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The younger O'Neill's decision narrows the number of candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the Sept. 14 primary to two - Gov. Edward J. King and former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.

From the House Speaker's standpoint what has happened has to be disappointing since he has the reputation of being a tough fighter and anything but a quitter. Like many a proud father he has been most anxious to have his son carry on in that tradition.

But campaign funding problems, coupled with continuing weak showings in state voter-preference samplings, left the second-term lieutenant governor little choice but to withdraw.

Although many close to the scene had become increasingly convinced the O'Neill bid might not last through the summer, its termination this early was somewhat of a surprise, even to those on his political team.

Clearly much of the out-of-state campaign financial support of his politically powerful father failed to materialize.

From the outset of his campaign last fall there was little doubt the younger O'Neill faced an uphill battle. Had he remained in the running, there is nothing to suggest he would have come close to overtaking either of his two rivals. His continued candidacy onto the primary ballot, however, might have made a difference in whether Governor King or Mr. Dukakis, the current leader in statewide opinion polls, became the Democratic standard bearer in November.

O'Neill could soon find himself under increasing pressure to abandon his current neutrality. In the past he has been closer to Dukakis than to King.

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The younger O'Neill hints broadly he will be a candidate for high elective office again, quite possibly for the Massachusetts governorship in 1986.

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