BERLIN -- There was Gov. William Donald Schaefer, presiding yesterday at the groundbreaking for a new hospital and basking in the audience's applause.
And on the Eastern Shore no less.
It might have been a time warp; no matter, the governor clearly liked it. Mr. Schaefer's relations with the Shore have been decidedly rocky since he called the region a "s---house" last January.
The governor was paraded before well-heeled, friendly Shore audiences yesterday from Ocean City to Preston, and emerged unscathed.
"It was very warm," Mr. Schaefer said of his reception. "I feel much better than I did. People have given me a very hard time down here, made me feel I was not welcome, but today is different. Today is a wonderful day. Feel good."
What with recession and budget cuts and nasty letters from -- and to -- constituents, Mr. Schaefer seemed ready for some fawning admiration. His gloom was nearly palpable at his first stop, to dedicate the$44 million Ocean City beach replenishment project.
The unruly seas generated by Hurricane Grace were ripping at the beach, undoing some of the state's work literally behind the governor's back. And the budget crisis was storming through his mind.
"I'm not in a happy mood, and the reason for that is no matter what you do right now, you're wrong," he told a windblown crowd assembled on the boardwalk.
But Mr. Schaefer brightened visibly at the groundbreaking for Atlantic General Hospital near Berlin. The state has earmarked $5 million for the Worcester County project.
Shirley Phillips, whose family's restaurants in Ocean City and Baltimore have flourished during the Schaefer years, called him "a man of vision, commitment and courage."
When it was his turn to speak, the governor alluded to his "unfortunate remark" about the Shore, spoke of this being a time "to heal wounds" and called for middle-income people to have "compassion" in tough economic times. Much of the crowd of 400 gave him a standing ovation.
Delegate K. Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, who was on the receiving end of Mr. Schaefer's off-color remark about the Shore, wanted to forget it yesterday.
"I'd rather you not even refer to that comment. It might bring it back in his mind again," he said.
Sen. Lewis R. Riley, R-Wicomico, said "things are real good" between Mr. Schaefer and Shore politicians.
Mr. Riley is widely expected to be Mr. Schaefer's choice next month for state secretary of agriculture.
The governor saved his only mildly scatological observation of the day for the news media, which he accused of blaming him for the recession. During the groundbreaking, he gestured to his backside and said, "This is for the press."