GOP won the right to laugh: at Democrats, at itself

THE POLITICAL GAME

November 11, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Maryland Republicans took a pasting in the presidential election last week, but not all of them lost their sense of humor.

Herewith, in the style of David Letterman, party loyalists offer eight reasons why the GOP can take comfort in the Clinton victory:

* We can stop defending Dan Quayle.

* Maryland Democrats won't be able to blame their budget problems on the Reagan-Bush administration anymore.

* Mario Cuomo's Supreme Court confirmation hearing will be even more entertaining than Clarence Thomas'.

* We won't have to be embarrassed by having Governor Schaefer visit the president at Camp David again.

* Now we get to see what the deal with Jesse Jackson was.

* We'll save a bundle on inaugural ball tickets.

* Everyone making more than $36,000 is now rich.

* It's only for four years.

Life goes on

In a certain Northeastern city given to machine politics, councilman was stricken one night in a neighborhood tavern. As they carried him out the door, one of his friends left the bar to make a phone call.

"Shaughnessy just died," the caller whispered. "You gonna run?"

Life goes on.

And the game of political succession goes on. The landscape changes in an instant. Anything can do it: a patronage job, a

death, an election.

Take, for example, the case of Bruce Poole of Hagerstown, majority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates.

Mr. Poole may have been a touch melancholy as he watched this year's elections. He had deferred a race for Congress from Maryland's 6th District, judging it was not the right year for him.

His House of Delegates colleague, Tom Hattery, Democrat of Frederick, took the chance and defeated Beverly B. Byron in the primary. Mr. Hattery might well have been off to a long and glorious career -- in a seat coveted by Mr. Poole.

Mr. Hattery, though, lost in last week's General Election to Republican Roscoe Bartlett.

Re-enter Mr. Poole. Too early to announce for the seat now, he says with a smile, but he likes the opening he sees.

Had Mr. Hattery won, Mr. Poole would have been prevented by party loyalty from running two years from now.

But he will have no compunction about challenging Mr. Bartlett.

Questions, answers

Elections spin the political kaleidoscope. While casting votes, the electorate produces new and colorful combinations of candidates and circumstances.

In last week's presidential election, Maryland Democrats pulled off a reversal of more than 300,000 votes over their performance in 1988. Mr. Bush won by 49,000 votes four years ago, but lost by 270,000 this time, a swing of 319,000.

Will Mr. Clinton's solid victory in Baltimore County embolden Democratic challengers to Rep. Helen Delich Bentley?

Will her sympathy for Serbia become more damaging as, over time, more people learn of it? Will Mrs. Bentley's once fiercely loyal party allies, dismayed by the Serbia issue and by her lukewarm support for President Bush, turn against her?

Can Rep. Tom McMillen reconstruct his career after losing to Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest in a tough, high-cost campaign?

Mr. McMillen put out campaign literature that suggested Mr. Gilchrest was denying much needed money -- money he had promised to donate from his salary -- to needy children. Mr. Gilchrest's picture as presented by this leaflet looked as if it might have been hanging previously in post offices.

Former Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro used to say of this sort of campaigning: "He who throws mud loses ground." Recent campaigns have suggested the mayor was wrong. The mud cure has been effective in many races. But not in this one.

And what of Alan L. Keyes, the Republican Senate candidate who was trounced by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski?

In 1988, Mr. Keyes was recruited for a Senate race after the GOP nominee withdrew. He had little time but rolled up 640,000 votes against Paul Sarbanes. This year, he had the whole campaign season, spent more than $1 million -- and fell short of his first effort by more than 100,000 votes. What if he had started in

politics as a candidate for the state legislature?

Did Gov. William Donald Schaefer's endorsement of Mr. Bush reduce Mr. Clinton's margin in Maryland -- or boost it? Does Mr. Schaefer's defection harm or enhance his reputation?

What of his thoughts about returning to run for mayor of Baltimore when his final term as governor ends in 1994?

If he does run again for City Hall, look for him to stay officially a Democrat and to run on the effectiveness-nostalgia ticket. Look for the business community to back him as never before.

But keep checking the kaleidoscope.

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