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.
The Dukakis and Flynn efforts, which included campaigning with the former vice-president early yesterday at a Boston subway station, could help Mondale win a first-place finish here.
Glenn's forces here include US Sen. Paul E. Tsongas (D) of Massachussets, state Attorney General Francis X. Bellotti, and state Senate President William M. Bulger. Radio spots, in which Senator Tsongas endorses the Glenn candidacy, are being broadcast statewide.
By contrast, Hart has attracted few prominent state Democrats. His aides had hoped to have Mayor Flynn with them, but 24 hours before the New Hampshire primary, he gave his support to Mondale.
Among the other Democratic presidential hopefuls, Jesse Jackson has the strongest, or at least most visible, support team. Its foundation rests on the campaign built by Boston mayoral candidate Melvin H. King, who lost in November. And George McGovern, unlike his opponents, plans to spend most of his time between now and March 13 in the state.
Senator Hart, who was in the commonwealth briefly yesterday, is due back tomorrow for a major political strategy meeting, when the intensity and direction of his effort here will be charted.
Much of the Massachusetts campaign, especially in the final days, is expected to be media-oriented, with Mondale and Glenn, in particular, buying radio and television spots.
The degree to which the Hart campaign adopts a media campaign could hinge on the success of fund-raising efforts, which probably will receive a lift from his victory in New Hampshire.
At stake here is a lion's share of the 116 seats reserved for Massachusetts delegates at July's Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.