MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Patrick J. Buchanan didn't even try to upstage President Bush yesterday, conceding a campaign round to his Republican primary opponent.
"It's going to drive me down in the polls and Mr. Bush up," Mr. Buchanan said of the presidential visit to New Hampshire.
Mr. Buchanan has been a troublesome opponent for Mr. Bush, who leads in a recent poll by 46 to 30 percent, hardly a comfortable margin for a sitting president.
But faced with Mr. Bush's first counterattack in New Hampshire, the usually feisty television commentator and columnist decided would be better to fight another day.
He went jogging in the morning, standing up a group of reporters. He finally appeared, dressed casually in a sweater, and made his only campaign foray, a brief visit to a nearby state employment office.
Mr. Buchanan spoke to several unemployed persons and used the occasion to criticize Mr. Bush.
"I think he should have gone over with me this morning to the Manchester employment office so he could understand the depth of the problem and the urgency of action," Mr. Buchanan said.
Stephanie Coryea, 26, an unemployed day-care center teacher, concurred.
She said the center laid her off because too many parents had lost their jobs and withdrawn their children. "He's waited too long," she said of Mr. Bush. "There's been a problem here for a while."
New Hampshire's economy, one of the most robust in the 1980s, has turned belly up in the '90s. The unemployment rate, just 2.4 percent in 1988, reached 7 percent in November.
Mr. Buchanan is benefiting from dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush's economic policies. But he can't count on total support from the unemployed in the primary Feb. 18.
Louise Malek, 36, who lost her job when her parents' furniture business closed recently, has not decided whom she'll vote for. "He has a lot of interesting things to say," she said of Mr. Buchanan. "On the other hand, he has a lot of comments that are pretty radical."
Outside the employment office, Mr. Buchanan expressed sympathy, saying, "These aren't people who want welfare. They want to work."
He asserts that the president worsened the recession by joining with Congress in 1990 in raising taxes, breaking a no-new-taxes pledge that Mr. Buchanan himself took Tuesday on the steps of the Capitol in Concord.
Although Mr. Bush said he will propose economic solutions in his State of the Union address Jan. 28, they include proposals -- tax credits for investment and research and development, for example -- that Mr. Buchanan claims as his own.
"It sounds like he's picking up on the Buchanan program, the Buchanan ideas I've been talking about for five weeks," Mr. Buchanan said. "And the question is, will the president of the United States fight for his ideas?"
Mr. Buchanan receives indirect help in his campaign from New Hampshire's newspapers, which are filled with stories about economic misery and anti-Bush resentment.
Mr. Buchanan is optimistic.
"We're gaining on the president," he said yesterday in an interview.