In a visit that could spark Democratic voter turnout and boost the re-election chances of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, President Clinton has agreed to speak at a Baltimore church Sunday, two days before Election Day, the White House said yesterday.
Clinton has accepted an invitation from U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings to deliver remarks during a Sunday morning service at New Psalmist Baptist Church in West Baltimore, Cummings said.
Cummings, who represents Maryland's 7th District, and other ranking state Democrats had urged Clinton to make a campaign stop in Maryland before the election to help prod Democratic voters, particularly African-Americans, to the polls Nov. 3.
The chief beneficiary will likely be Glendening, who is in a neck-and-neck race against Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Glendening enjoys a strong advantage over Sauerbrey among African-American voters, according to the polls.
"I think it will help the governor for the president to be seen with him and for the president to say some kind words about him," said Cummings, an ally of Glendening and Clinton. "I think it will help in a race that might boil down to 6,000 to 10,000 votes."
Clinton's decision comes as Glendening and other Democrats are making determined efforts to increase black voter turnout, using rallies, advertising and traditional get-out-the-vote efforts such as phone banks.
"It would be a giant boost," said Keith Haller, a Bethesda pollster who closely follows Maryland politics. "There's nothing that could be done that would have more of a lightning effect on boosting African-American turnout than if Clinton were to show up at the absolute most important time."
Clinton's decision to campaign in Maryland comes despite Glendening's distancing himself from the president at the depths of the Monica Lewinsky scandal last month.
After many state Democratic officials criticized his snub, the governor moved in recent weeks to reconnect with the president, who enjoys higher job approval ratings than Glendening.
The Clinton administration seems to have shrugged off Glendening's earlier reticence about appearing with the president.
Clinton and Glendening appeared together at a Montgomery County education event two weeks ago.
And while Glendening canceled a Clinton fund-raiser because of the Lewinsky matter, he is nonetheless receiving significant financial help from the administration.
Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared at a Virginia fund-raiser for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend last week, raising about $250,000 for the Glendening-Townsend re-election effort, and Vice President Al Gore will be the guest at a $1,000-a-head Glendening fund-raising lunch today in Chevy Chase.
Glendening said a Clinton visit would be "great."
"It would help with voter turnout," the governor said.
While the presidential trip will likely have the most benefit for Glendening, it is also a thank-you to Cummings, who has been one of Clinton's most vocal supporters during the Lewinsky matter.
Cummings' church and district are predominantly African-American, and Clinton enjoys near-universal approval ratings from blacks in public opinion polls in Maryland and around the country.
Nationally, Clinton and other leading Democrats are working hard to generate large turnout by African-American voters, particularly in tight races such as the Glendening-Sauerbrey matchup.
"We have been so loyally Democratic that sometimes I think we are taken for granted," Cummings said. "I think the president is making sure that we realize that we are very, very significant to the Democratic Party."
Even Sauerbrey conceded yesterday that a presidential visit will be good for Glendening.
"The president is a lot more popular than the governor," Sauerbrey said. "His coming to Maryland is probably going to be very helpful to Parris."
Sauerbrey added, however, that the help would come only if voters "are willing to forget how poorly Parris treated President Clinton."
Pub Date: 10/27/98