Candidates search for precious energy as they pursue votes Campaigns raise blisters as long hours take a toll

October 30, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Shivering outside a Metro station at day's early light, after 45 minutes of shaking hands with the crush of commuters, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend starts to get The Look.

Her smile grows a little fixed, her eyes a little glazed. Her hands are so cold they're blue. The lieutenant governor can barely disguise the glimmer of weariness that comes from being up since 5: 30, running on two cups of coffee and too little sleep, facing a blurring chain of public appearances.

Seconds later, it passes. Fortified by a gulp of coffee, Townsend is once again pirouetting into the crowd, cheerfully waving at the men and women in business suits rushing to catch the Washington Metro at Addison Road in Prince George's County.

"It's adrenalin," she explains. "I'm living on adrenalin."

The Look has flashed across every candidate's face in the nonstop final days of Maryland's gubernatorial election.

For all their slick television ads and computer-generated mass mailings, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Ellen R. Sauerbrey and their running mates have turned to old-fashioned glad-handing to generate enthusiasm in a race that is expected to hinge on voter turnout.

They're out there, at schools and churches, at retirement homes and factory gates. Beginning today, the Democratic governor and his Republican challenger will board buses to crisscross Maryland. Both share the same goal: to squeeze in as many handshakes as possible before Tuesday.

If the smiles and salutes are fleeting but indispensable, they're also taking their toll.

Sauerbrey's lieutenant governor candidate, Richard D. Bennett, has a blister on his thumb from shaking hands at bus and train stops. He also has gained 8 pounds.

"I never used to eat doughnuts. Now I need those carbohydrate lifts," he says. "It's doughnuts for breakfast and pizza for lunch and pizza for dinner."

His Democratic rival, Townsend, has lost that much weight despite indulging in chocolate milkshakes to keep her energy up. Almost every morning, she lugs campaign signs to traffic lights in Baltimore, staking out a curbside position for rush hour.

"It's a classic thing to do," she says. Waving at motorists may seem an insubstantial form of campaigning, but she says it helps demonstrate that their vote is truly wanted.

Over the past few days, fighting fatigue and the fear of making some kind of public blunder, Sauerbrey and Glendening have been out from dawn until long past nightfall. Every so often, they glance at their overbooked schedules to get a clue of where they are.

On Wednesday morning, as she tapes her second television interview in an hour, Sauerbrey has to laugh about the life that she's been leading. "I'm just a sack of potatoes," she jokes to several volunteers at her Montgomery County headquarters.

"They just dump me in the van, and I don't know where I'm going next," she adds. "When you're going 18 hours a day, you can't really keep up with your schedule."

As the bright white lights are switched off, Sauerbrey sighs. She has The Look about her. But then she jumps off the chair and heads outside. Several county police officers and firefighters are waiting to announce their unions' endorsements of her.

Twelve hours later -- after a stop at a Silver Spring retirement community, two fund-raisers, a meeting with business leaders and a speech at a Baltimore Jewish school -- Sauerbrey abruptly agrees to appear on CNN's "Larry King Live." Her friend and campaign aide, Carol Hirschburg, worries that she will be too tired. After all, Hirschburg is.

But when Sauerbrey arrives shortly before 9 p.m. to square off with Glendening, she is so energetic and composed that she puts on her own TV makeup.

"It's amazing," Hirschburg says. "It's like she reaches into this inner reserve."

The next morning, it's Glendening's turn to find that reserve. By 7: 45 a.m. he has wrapped up three interviews with radio stations and stationed himself at the Metro. The governor has made a breakfast of a handful of vitamins. Still, as he reaches to shake hands with groggy commuters, Glendening says he is feeling "pumped."

"You tend to kind of get in the groove, and then your energy kicks in," he says.

Yet the governor, too, can find himself overwhelmed by the ceaseless pace of the campaign. He has stocked throat lozenges and he catnaps when he can in the car.

He also follows the example of Louis L. Goldstein, Maryland's late comptroller and quintessential politician: These days, Glendening always packs an extra pair of shoes.

"When all else fails," he says, "if you change your socks and shoes, you feel a little more refreshed."

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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