Walter F. Mondale may have taken New Hampshire too much ''for granite,'' as one punster put it while assessing Mr. Mondale's weaker-than-expected showing in the nation's first presidential primary Tuesday.
Whatever the impact of Gary Hart's Granite State upset elsewhere in the nation, in Massachusetts, the Democratic leaders were caught by surprise. Most of the political heavyweights here have supported Mondale or John Glenn of Ohio, who finished third in New Hampshire.
With the state's presidential preference primary less than two weeks away, the next few days are particularly crucial to campaigners. And the March 13 vote here may now become even more important in the process of sorting out the candidates and determining who will win the Democratic nomination, state officials say.
Massachusetts is a heavily Democratic state with strong liberal leanings. In 1972, it was the only state carried by presidential nominee George McGovern. A less-than-strong first place finish here would be a major setback to Mondale, say those within Massachusetts political ranks.
Senator Hart must have a strong showing, too, if he is to retain his position as front-runner and increase his momentum as he moves into other states.
Senator Glenn also must do very well in the Bay State to remain a formidable challenger for the Democratic nomination. He was not aided by his distant third-place finish in New Hampshire, where most pollsters had indicated he would be the closest Mondale rival.
Especially helpful to Mondale's efforts in the commonwealth could be a well-organized, well-funded campaign - aided by the AFL-CIO in a state with heavy union membership.
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, US House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. (D) of Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn, and Speaker Thomas W. McGee of the state's House of Representatives are also aboard Mondale's Bay State bandwagon.