Virginia Baker says she likes Gov. William Donald Schaefer because, among other things, he can dance in a hula skirt, hog-call and even race turtles.
"Everything we do, he does," said the Baltimore woman, who has known the governor for decades.
Nearby, a man who called himself Captain Seaweed and wore a green mask wandered around to promote the governor's environmental leadership.
They joined about 100 former and current Schaefer employees and other loyalists yesterday in a veritable love fest honoring the governor, who has come under intense criticism recently for his behavior.
Schaefer has spent months bemoaning the fact that 40 percent of the Maryland electorate voted against him in November. He taken his lumps in recent months for calling the Eastern Shore an outhouse, sending nasty notes to critics and visiting one critic at his home, among other things.
The crowd yesterday hoped to cheer up the reportedly gloomy governor and show their support.
Al Flora, a one-time boxer and former owner of an Arbutus cocktail lounge, had a suggestion for Schaefer. In front of a gaggle of cameras and reporters, he showed off an oversized pair of boxing gloves that read "Keep Punchin" on one side.
"He's got to keep punching and let everyone know he's the best," Flora said. Flora said he has given gloves to other prominent politicians, including some who have had their own battles to fight, such as Spiro Agnew, Marvin Mandel and Richard Nixon.
The public criticism probably bothers Schaefer because "he's a very sensitive man," Flora said. "He likes the people to pat him on the back."
And pat they did. The crowd chanted "Schaefer, Schaefer" until the obviously pleased governor joined their rally outside the State House.
Then, supporters recited Schaefer's accomplishments and delivered glowing testimonials, while the governor mugged with Flora's boxing gloves and otherwise looked happy.
Schaefer opened his remarks by comparing the testimonials to those normally reserved for funerals.
"Times have not been exactly gentle in the last six, seven, eight months," he said.
"For four years, we had the best four years you could imagine," he said, referring to his first term's achievements, which included social programs.
"We touched the retarded and we touched the homeless and we touched those who needed help. And then something went wrong. Something went wrong. What went wrong? Oh, people started to say there's too much money being spent."
He said he hoped for a turnaround in public opinion about state spending. He also thanked the crowd for supporting him at a time when he was feeling "not discouraged but maybe a little off-balance."
Afterward, the governor told reporters that he regained his balance about 30 to 45 days ago and realized that his margin of victory in the November election -- he received about 60 percent of the vote -- was not really so bad after all.