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3 NORTHEASTERN STATES PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE

With the focus on the South, and former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas on the ballot, three Northeastern states with Super Tuesday contests are getting short shrift this year - from the candidates and the voters.

Tsongas' campaign apparently has assumed he will do well at home, and has barely touched the state, canceling a trip home Sunday to attend the funeral in Florida of a policeman from his motorcade.In neighboring Rhode Island, the candidates have small staffs and meager budgets. Bill Clinton is running TV ads and has the endorsements of Gov. Bruce Sundlun and many of the state's top Democrats but hasn't visited the state since early on in the campaign.

And in Delaware, where Democratic caucuses are scheduled, party leaders have been urging state convention delegates to choose "uncommitted" as their choice.

"We didn't have enough information to make a good decision, and therefore the best decision at this time was to go uncommitted," said Joseph E. Reardon, the Democratic Party chairman of New Castle County, Del.

Delaware's Republican caucuses are scheduled for April.

President Bush was born in the Bay State, but Bush's native-son status has eroded and Republicans are scheduling 11th-hour visits.

"I would expect that perhaps (Patrick) Buchanan might do pretty well, even though this is one of George Bush's five home states," said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts.

Analysts said Buchanan may draw unenrolled Bay State voters who assume that Tsongas is a shoo-in, and elect to register a protest against Bush.

David Duke also is on the Republican primary ballot.

In Rhode Island, where Duke backers went to court to get his name before the voters, the former Ku Klux Klansman has virtually no organization.

"They're sort of using their resources in other areas where they believe they're going to be more successful," said William Overson, who successfully sued to get Duke on the primary ballot.

With its small number of delegates - 22 total Democratic and 15 Republican - Rhode Island is an afterthought for most candidates.