Clinton carries 9 of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions President garnered 54 percent of state vote to Dole's 38 percent

Election 1996

November 07, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

In winning his re-election bid Tuesday, President Clinton captured nine of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions, including four Eastern Shore counties he lost in 1992.

Clinton maintained a 16 percent margin over Republican Bob Dole -- the same spread he enjoyed over President George Bush in 1992, which that year was second only to that in his home state of Arkansas.

The president swept Maryland in Tuesday's election with 54 percent of the vote, compared with Dole's 38 percent. Reform Party candidate Ross Perot ran third, with 7 percent of the vote, while the other lesser-known candidates split the remaining difference.

As in 1992, Clinton this year rolled up wins in Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties.

But he also was able to count four Shore counties in the win column this year: Dorchester, Kent (which he lost to Bush by one vote in 1992), Somerset and Worcester, home to Ocean City.

But state Republicans seemed to find some consolation in noting that Maryland's 16 percent difference between Clinton and Dole was well below the state's No. 2 ranking nationally four years ago, with several states ahead of it this year.

In Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-1, turnout among registered voters statewide was about 70 percent, considered on the low end of the range for presidential elections.

This year, Perot, who helped spark voter interest four years ago, when he captured 14 percent of Maryland's vote as an independent candidate, took only half of what he did in 1992.

Clinton appeared to be the bigger beneficiary of Perot's loss, increasing his margin by 4 points, from 50 percent of the vote in 1992 to 54 percent of the vote this year. Dole increased the Republican margin by 2 points, from Bush's 36 percent in 1992 to 38 percent this year.

Turnout among Maryland's record 2.5 million registered voters was fairly uniform in the state's 24 jurisdictions at about 70 percent. Baltimore City, however, continued a downward trend in voter turnout seen in recent years with about 52 percent of registered voters going to the polls, according to preliminary figures. In 1992, the city saw a 69 percent turnout, although the statewide average that year was 81 percent.

This year's surprises were the wins for Clinton in some of the generally conservative Eastern Shore counties, none of which has gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1980.

State Republicans chalked up the Shore wins to Clinton's

chameleon-like stance on issues.

"The Democrats co-opted the Republican issues, such as less taxes," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, Maryland Republican chairwoman. "Clinton has moved. He's wonderful at shifting, and he sounded like a moderate Republican."

Terhes also conceded that the Democrats have been working hard in the state's rural areas to rebuild the party, in the wake of its scare in the 1994 governor's race.

That year, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey came within 5,993 votes of defeating Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who retained the State House for the Democrats after winning in just three jurisdictions -- Baltimore City, Prince George's County and Montgomery County.

"For years they were taking the Maryland Republican Party for granted and after the gains we made in 1994 they have been trying to reorganize, regroup and retool," she said.

John T. Willis, Maryland's secretary of state, Glendening's chief political adviser and author of "Presidential Elections in Maryland," agreed that Clinton's message made the difference in the Shore counties.

"The same thing happened in Maryland that happened nationally," he said. "Clinton won Florida for the Democrats for the first time since 1976 -- the same year [President Jimmy Carter] won in Cecil, Kent and Somerset counties."

"It's not that unusual," he said. In fact, Carter carried both Somerset and Kent in 1980 -- the last time Democrats scored any of the Shore counties.

This year, Clinton carried Somerset over Dole by more than 600 votes, 3,420 to 2,811. In Kent County, the president won over Dole by nearly 200 votes, 3,041 to 2,865.

"The unusual one is Worcester County," he said. "Only one other Democrat in the last 60 years -- [President Lyndon B.] Johnson in 1964 -- has won there."

Clinton squeezed out a narrow win there, 7,144 to 7,075.

In Worcester, Willis believes the demographics of the county are changing, with more retirees from the state's urbanized area moving to Ocean City and its environs.

"We saw it first last year with the county commissioner's race, when the makeup of the commissioners went from five Republicans to a 4-1 Democratic majority," he said.

Dorchester County last went Democratic in a presidential race in 1960, when it helped push President John F. Kennedy over the top. This year, Clinton edged out Dole by less than 300 votes, 4,434 to 4,147.

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