BETHESDA -- President Bush opened his primary campaign in Maryland yesterday with a blistering attack on his favorite targets: the U.S. Congress, big spenders and "the doomsayers."
About 400 mostly admiring listeners chanted "Four more years" as Mr. Bush spoke during a rally at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Montgomery County -- a stronghold of Republican sentiment. About 27 percent of the state's Republican voters live in Montgomery County.
Mr. Bush is supported in Maryland by virtually every high-ranking Republican Party official and by most, if not all, of the state's elected GOP officials. With that much support here, yesterday's visit may represent the closing as well as the opening of his personal campaign.
Mr. Bush's primary opponent, columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, is expected to make one campaign stop in Maryland, probably at a Friday evening fund-raiser in Carroll County. But, in view of Mr. Bush's strength in Maryland and because delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis in the Republican primary, Mr. Buchanan is not expected to make a major effort in this state.
Without naming him yesterday, Mr. Bush railed against his opponent's "America First" isolationism.
"Americans don't cut and run. We can out-think and out-produce anyone in the world any time," he said.
From the audience, the president was challenged on his support for acquired immune deficiency syndrome research. And, stopping to address the heckler, the president said spending for AIDS research would continue to increase "until we beat that dread disease."
Mr. Bush also was challenged by several students on his attempt toforce the Israeli government to stop its construction of housing in the occupied territories. One of several placards held by students said "Israel needs the loan guarantees," a reference to the $10 billion which Secretary of State James A. Baker III announced yesterday would be withheld unless the housing construction is halted.
Liron Unreich, 18, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase, said the issue goes beyond housing.
"We're talking about the lives of people," he said. Still, Mr. Unreich said he was likely to support Mr. Bush this fall because he feels the Democrats will be "worse."
Introducing the president yesterday, State Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Montgomery County Republican, hailed Mr. Bush's policies and the Persian Gulf war in particular:
"Can you imagine what the price of gasoline would be now if President Bush had not led us so brilliantly?"