That two-week avalanche of presidential candidates brought Maryland nationwide attention as President Bush fended off Pat Buchanan and Paul Tsongas moved into a co-front-runner position with Bill Clinton. But the presidential hopefuls have now fled south for Super Tuesday, leaving this week's other Maryland winners to start laying plans for the long, arduous general election campaign that won't climax for another eight months.
Four House races and one Senate race will hold center stage in Maryland. All of them have the potential to be rigorous, exciting campaigns that should give voters plenty to think about before the general election.
Incumbent Democrat Barbara Mikulski will try to fend off the GOP nominee, Alan Keyes, who ran four years ago against Sen. Paul Sarbanes and won 38 percent of the vote. This time, the glib and rigidly conservative Mr. Keyes has a large campaign war chest and a polished throw-the-big-spending-liberal-Democrats-out theme. The two candidates are certain to clash on the most emotional issue of the campaign, the abortion referendum. Ms. Mikulski, who also has a huge election treasury, is ardently pro-abortion; Mr. Keyes is just as ardently anti-abortion.
First District voters will get to choose between two incumbents, Tom McMillen and Wayne Gilchrest, thrown together through redistricting. Mr. Gilchrest is a first-term Republican moderate from the Eastern Shore; Mr. McMillen is a third-term Democrat from the Western Shore who has tried to moderate his liberal record. Will voters stick with their regional favorite sons? Will they select according to party affiliation? Or will they choose on the basis of the candidates' voting records?
Democratic voters in the 6th District, having unseated Rep. Beverly Byron after 14 years, gave Del. Tom Hattery a strong endorsement on Tuesday. He won all six counties in the district, setting the stage for a November confrontation with little-known GOP college professor Roscoe Bartlett. Mr. Hattery starts off with a decided advantage.
Rep. Steny Hoyer also has the early advantage in the 5th District. But he could have problems with Republican Lawrence Hogan Jr., a Realtor well-known in the Prince George's section of the district because of his father's long political career there. Mr. Hoyer's liberal voting record could be a pivotal factor in conservative Southern Maryland.
Also in Prince George's County, state Sen. Al Wynn is the favorite to represent the new minority 4th district. He is a skilled, hard-working politician who will face Michele Dyson, an articulate Republican who shocked the GOP with her landslide primary victory. Given the cantankerous mood of the electorate, another shocker could conceivably occur in November. Maryland's voters are getting unpredictable, and congressional nominees had better not take them for granted.