Candidates trade fire on eve of vote Md. among 7 states with balloting today

TIME TO CHOOSE

March 03, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Paul West of the Washington Bureau/STAFF GRAPHICS @Staff Writer Staff Writers John Fairhall and Tom Bowman contributed to this article.

Maryland's lightning-fast presidential primary campaign ended yesterday with a final exchange of fire between the Democratic front-runners and another day without the Republicans.

Voters go to the polls today to make their choices in the presidential contests, in party primaries for the U.S. Senate and for several congressional contests.

Most of the attention has been focused on those seeking the highest office in the land. It was the same yesterday.

Former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas pushed his economic program before 1,300 at the Johns Hopkins University.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton talked health care over coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts in Glen Burnie.

And former California Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. wen jogging in East Baltimore after spending the night at a homeless shelter there.

President Bush was interviewed via satellite on local evening news programs.

But his challenger, conservative broadcaster Patrick J. Buchanan, again did not campaign in Maryland. Mr. Bush is expected to win here with ease. At the same time, the president faces another potential embarrassment if the vote for Mr. Buchanan comes out as projected by polls in the 25 percent-to-30 percent range.

Despite the closing blitzes by the front-runners on television and on the organizational front, turnout is not expected to go higher than 35 percent. The polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The other two Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, did not campaign here yesterday.

Maryland's party primaries are closed, meaning that registered Democrats and Republicans may vote in their party's primary only. Mr. Buchanan will not be able to count on conservative Democrats crossingover to support him as they are allowed to do in Georgia today.

Mr. Tsongas has enjoyed a 10-point advantage in the polls here -- and that lead appeared to be holding, although Mr. Clinton's campaign said the gap was closing. Mr. Tsongas also leads but by a smaller margin in Colorado, which is one of six other states with caucuses or primaries today.

Mr. Clinton is believed to be the clear leader in Georgia. He and Mr. Tsongas made a fight of it to the end in Maryland.

Mr. Tsongas said again yesterday that he must do well here to keep his campaign moving up and dollars flowing in. Mr. Clinton and his organization continued to push for votes -- despite earlier indications that Maryland had moved lower on his list of priorities.

The Arkansas governor's fortunes may well ride on the backing of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his campaign organization in Baltimore -- particularly since the organization has suggested it can turn out a sizable vote for the man its leader is backing.

A number of the city's old-line Democratic organizations also are behind the Arkansas governor. "If they want to, they'll turn 'em out," says Gene Raynor, head of the state election board and veteran observer of city elections.

Less well-organized, Mr. Tsongas has nevertheless appeared to be the likely popular vote winner, according to polling, with his appeal carrying over from his win in New Hampshire, from television ads and from his visits here.

He and Mr. Clinton are likely to win most of the 44 Democratic delegates at stake in the race here. Candidates must win at least 15 percent of the vote in each of the state's eight congressional districts to win delegates. Above that threshold, delegates are awarded proportionally.

In Maryland yesterday, Mr. Clinton continued his criticism of the Tsongas economic plan, calling it a boon to the rich at the expense of the middle class.

"He favors an across-the-board capital gains tax cut -- something for nothing -- while I favor targeted incentives that will create jobs and products and services for our people here," Mr. Clinton said. "We tried his approach in the '80s and it failed us."

Mr. Tsongas insisted Mr. Clinton's critique was a distortion.

"Invest in America and you'll do very well," Mr. Tsongas said during a press conference outside an aerospace firm in Greenbelt. "Don't invest in America and [my plan will] hurt you." Those who invest for the long term get a better tax deal, he said. Those who speculate or invest overseas are penalized, he said.

Mr. Tsongas said his plan for "growing businesses" has come under attack because Democrats continue to misunderstand what makes the economy prosper. A new television advertisement aired in Baltimore shows his picture splattered with paint -- and then restored to clarity as the candidate's programs are accurately explained.

But yesterday, some Marylanders saw the candidates in person.

Business stopped as Mr. Clinton arrived at the doughnut shop.

Laura Marshallsay of Glen Burnie provoked a lengthy response from Mr. Clinton when she asked him about health insurance.

The small company she works for can't afford health insurance for its workers, she said. Her husband, Tim, can't afford the premiums for the insurance his employer offers.

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