Make-or-break Maryland

February 27, 1992

Maryland looks more and more like a make-or-break state for Paul E. Tsongas in next Tuesday's Democratic primary. After just edging former California Gov. Jerry Brown in Maine's Sunday caucuses and finishing fourth in South Dakota's primary two days later, the former Massachusetts senator needs a win here to restore the momentum of his New Hampshire victory and demonstrate he is more than a regional candidate. He may get it.

Mr. Tsongas has picked up Gov. William Donald Schaefer's endorsement as a counter to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's nod for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. He has made a good impression on Parris Glendening, Prince George's county executive. He has attracted the backing of some Maryland environmentalists after taking heat for his support of nuclear power in his native New England.

But the intriguing question is how Mr. Tsongas, now ahead in Maryland polls, will do in his quest for votes from the traditional alliance of liberals, labor union members and black voters. So far, save for references to his experience as a councilman in the depressed textile town of Lowell, Mass., this has not been a focus of Mr. Tsongas' speeches. In contrast, Governor Clinton went after the labor and black constituencies in a Baltimore appearance last Sunday. Sen. Tom Harkin delivered his New Deal pitch in speeches here Tuesday before law students and a union rally. (Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, the victor in South Dakota, is putting few marbles on Maryland.)

The emphasis on urban policy is good for troubled cities like Baltimore, but whether it is good politics in a suburbanized America is another question. Keep in mind that both Mr. Tsongas and Mr. Clinton are to the right of the traditional Democratic policy line. The former boasts of being a "pro-business liberal" and sponsors an "industrial policy" featuring closer cooperation between government and industry to create jobs. Mr. Clinton was active in the Democratic Leadership Council, a middle-of-the-road group often excoriated by Jesse Jackson. Only Mr. Harkin decribes himself as a "real Democrat," a stand that might not do too well in the affluent, supposedly liberal Washington suburbs where Mr. Tsongas is strong.

Marylanders should study these candidates carefully. Results here will have national impact.

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