What will signal that Mr. Schmoke is running for higher office? "I think he's going to try to project a more forceful image as mayor," Mr. Crenson said.
Herbert Smith, a pollster and professor of political science at Western Maryland College, said that if Mr. Schmoke ran for statewide office, he could face a radically changed political landscape.
First, Democrats probably won't be the dominant force in state politics that they have been in the past. And Baltimore's shrinking population, compared with the rapid growth of the Washington suburbs, will make it tougher for city politicians to win statewide.
And Mr. Smith said he sees "a very crowded house of middleweights" running for governor in 1994.
"Schmoke will be a player in that house, but I don't think he can be considered heir apparent to any higher public office," he said. "What I think will be the rule for Maryland post-Schaefer will be that Democrats will have to fight, to compete, with Republicans."
Of course, the state's political landscape may change as fast as the map of the Soviet Union. So speculation about future elections remains just that -- speculation.
The political grapevine in Baltimore, for example, buzzed in recent weeks with a rumor that Mr. Schmoke planned to run for the seat of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes in 1994.
"This is the kind of rumor that comes up before every election," said Bruce Frame, press spokesman for the Democratic senator. "There's nothing to it."