Fresh from his victory last night in the New Hampshire presidential primary, Democratic candidate Paul E. Tsongas today strongly criticized President Bush at a rally in downtown Baltimore and said Maryland is "critical" to his strategy.
"It's no accident I came here first," said the former Massachusetts senator, making his first campaign stop after New Hampshire.
The Maryland primary is March 3. In an interview before the rally, Mr. Tsongas refused to say he had to win here, but said he had to do "really well."
Most of the several hundred people at the lunchtime rally were not outright Tsongas supporters but had come out of curiousity. He was applauded several times.
A few supporters of second-place New Hampshire finisher Bill Clinton held signs and distributed literature -- signaling that Mr. Tsongas won't win the state without a fight.
Mr. Tsongas criticized President Bush for neglecting the country.
"Mr. Bush, whether you like it or not, your responsibilities are between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean," he said.
Mr. Tsongas accused Mr. Bush -- and also his Democratic opponents -- of fostering non-productive giveaways to win voters' support.
Referring to the middle-class income tax cut offered by Mr. Clinton, which would save the average family about $400 a year, Mr. Tsongas said: "How are we going to compete with Japan on 97 cents a day?"
"I'm going to put the money into driving manufacturing, which is the engine of the economy," said Mr. Tsongas, who disdains income tax cuts during a time of high deficits and proposes investment tax incentives to stimulate growth.
He said the tax-cut idea was dreamed up by pollsters. "I say throw all the pollsters in the Potomac."
Then, in one of several humorous asides, he grabbed his made-for-TV tie and acknowledged his own concession to media campaigning. "I now have 20 red diagonal ties," he said.
He also challenged Democrats and Republicans who favor a special children's tax credit, noting he has three children of his own and doesn't "need the money."
"And where's the money going to come from?" he said. "With a $400 billion deficit it's going to come from our kids. That's pandering, that's pandering."