Mikulski rolling so easily she's giving away fundsBlessed...

THE POLITICAL GAME

October 14, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Mikulski rolling so easily she's giving away funds

Blessed with plenty of money and an opponent on the verge of political collapse, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski all but coasts through her re-election campaign this year.

Oh, sure, she frets about a fickle electorate. She puts a cool million into TV ads. She ducks a debate on commercial television in Baltimore.

But in mid-campaign, Ms. Mikulski feels free to share her time, her money and her fund-raising prowess with other Democratic candidates from Pennsylvania to California.

For her friend and former House colleague, Geraldine A. Ferraro, who lost a bitter primary last month, she campaigned personally in New York.

At just one of several luncheons in Washington, she helped to gather $200,000 for the Women's Council of the Democratic Party.

The fund-raising began in New York during the Democratic convention when she and Texas Gov. Ann W. Richards raised more than $1 million for Democratic women Senate candidates.

Though eligible for some of this money herself, Ms. Mikulski has declined to accept it. Turned it down. Just said no.

Her opponent, meanwhile, moves into the final weeks of the campaign with virtually no money for television advertisements.

Alan L. Keyes suffered a grievous, if not fatal, blow last week when the Republican National Senatorial Campaign Committee denied him $400,000 that he had counted on. The committee cited Ms. Mikulski's extraordinarily high standing in the polls.

Distracted as well as dismayed, Mr. Keyes held a press conference to condemn the elders of his party. He was more critical of them, almost, than he has been of his opponent.

With barely concealed joy, then, Ms. Mikulski will travel to Philadelphia this Friday to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Lynn Yeakel who is running against incumbent Republican, Arlen Specter. Ms. Mikulski will be joined there by Governor Richards.

The Ann and Barbara Show will head back to Maryland in the afternoon for a gathering billed as "A Rootin' Tootin' Clinton/Gore Rally" at the Dundalk Armory on North Point Boulevard.

Looking beyond her own campaign is almost obligatory for Ms. Mikulski, the first Democratic woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right without being appointed after the death of her husband.

At the same time, she has been as compulsive, as worried, as anxious and as doubtful about her standing as any prudent candidate might be. She tells stories about former colleagues in the House of Representatives who appeared to be miles ahead in the polls, certain winners, mortal locks, and lost.

Could a last-minute turnaround or unaccountable backlash, the incumbent wonders, be lurking out there? Thus, the $1 million in television advertising, which currently features Washington Bullets Coach Wes Unseld.

At the same time, she feels compelled to help women who are bidding to join her in Washington.

"I didn't open this door just for the breeze," she says. In Baltimore, Mr. Keyes has rented billboards to introduce himself to the city's voters and to ask: "Why not one of us?" His campaign acknowledges that he is anxious to have Baltimore's black voters know he is black.

To make a run against Ms. Mikulski, Mr. Keyes must make inroads among Baltimore blacks, many of whom are registered Democrats. He insists that he has "stealth" support that escapes the pollsters. Black voters are uncomfortable with Republicans, but not with him, and would be even less so if they knew him better.

For that reason, he says, Ms. Mikulski is refusing to debate him in Baltimore lest she give him a chance to introduce himself, his ideas and his rhetorical skills.

Mr. Keyes says public television has a small black viewing audience. She refuses to relent, saying public television is statewide. Mr. Keyes' support might have to be somewhat less stealthy to give him leverage against his opponent's tactical resistance.

Meanwhile, Mr. Keyes is using his question, "Why Not One of Us?" well beyond the city. "As a Montgomery County resident living in Darnestown, I have been increasingly concerned and find myself asking one question: Why not one of us?

"Why should the affairs of the entire state be dictated as if Baltimore were the only consideration. Maryland is a lot larger than urban Baltimore." Mr. Keyes makes this pitch in a letter to voters who requested absentee ballots.

A somewhat less solicitous attitude toward Baltimore may well be designed to attract voters in Montgomery, some of whom think the city asks for and gets too much of their tax dollars.

Mr. Keyes' aide, Allyson Bell, says the candidate's question was always directed at all Marylanders, not just to black voters in Baltimore or absentees in Montgomery.

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