In the final weekend of the campaign, a confident Gov. Martin O'Malley headlined events across the state, from Southern Maryland to Baltimore, while former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took a more low-key approach, mostly checking in at gatherings organized for other purposes.
The Democratic incumbent, comfortably leading in recent polls, predicted at campaign stops Sunday that Maryland would be "a bright spot" for Democrats on Election Day, even as Republicans make gains elsewhere in the country.
Ehrlich on Sunday reminded supporters to get their friends to the polls, saying that although it is tough for a Republican to win in Democratic Maryland, an enthusiastic GOP base could make a difference.
Both seasoned politicians have been hitting the campaign trail nearly daily since April, and polls throughout the summer showed a tight race. But O'Malley has outspent his competitor, dominated television advertising and showcased party luminaries President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
O'Malley said that while he still does not sense "euphoric excitement" among Democratic voters, he believes that "resolve" has taken hold. "The energy is up," he said after a rally in Park Heights. "My sense if that people are very resolved to vote."
Ehrlich said he was unsure what would happen on Election Day, noting that he suspected in 2002 that he'd win and in 2006 that he'd lose. "This time, I have no idea" what might happen," he said at a veterans bull roast in Towson.
The candidates began Sunday with appearances at black churches, Ehrlich in his native Baltimore County and then Prince George's County and O'Malley in Baltimore, where he was mayor for seven years. In the afternoon, O'Malley maintained an ambitious schedule, while Ehrlich kept it lighter.
After his church visits, Ehrlich watched firefighters practice cracking open a locked car at a Kingsville fire company where his cousin is a volunteer and then stopped by the Maryland Veterans Foundation bull and oyster roast in Towson. Next, he headed back to Annapolis to take his sons Drew and Josh trick-or-treating.
O'Malley's Sunday afternoon was packed with political pep rallies in Cherry Hill, Harlem Park, Park Heights and at Security Square Mall. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was at his side nearly the entire day, and other elected officials — including state Sens. Verna Jones and Catherine Pugh, and City Council members Ed Reisinger and Sharon Green Middleton — lent support at various stops.
To travel from place to place, O'Malley was escorted by a noisy caravan of privately owned dump trucks and other large vehicles bearing his lime-green campaign posters. O'Malley, wearing a Ravens jacket, occasionally popped out of the sunroof of a sports utility vehicle to wave to onlookers.
Some of the vehicles were fitted with stereos that blasted snippets of speeches by O'Malley, Obama and other politicians mixed with the Black Eyed Peas' dance tune "Boom Boom Pow." That same soundtrack will blare in an army of get-out-the-vote vehicles on Tuesday. "I want everybody to get out there and vote," Rep. Elijah Cummings' voice crackled through the speakers. "Will you do it for us?"
In Cherry Hill, Elva Gilmore, 54, shouted from her wheelchair, "One, two, three, O-Mal-ley. We love you." Gilmore, a resident of the neighborhood for four decades, said she'd voted early and will wave signs on a street corner come Tuesday.
On Saturday, O'Malley traveled to the state's southernmost counties. He joined Rep. Steny Hoyer to wave signs in Charlotte Hall, rallied with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski in Waldorf and toured Nanjemoy, a tiny, remote town to which no governor had paid a visit since Gov. William Smallwood in the late 1700s, according to a local pastor.
At a pizza parlor lunch break, O'Malley and Hoyer greeted diners. Among them were Siegfried and Susan Herrmann of La Plata, who later told a reporter they were conservative Republicans with tea party values. Both voted for Ehrlich four years ago but said they'd cast their ballots for O'Malley this time.
"I just really don't like Ehrlich's track record at all," Siegfried Herrmann said.
Ehrlich on Saturday turned to the people whom he said inspired his run: friends and blue-collar workers hit hardest by the down economy.
He kicked off the morning at a rally in Dundalk with Democrats who said they are disenchanted with O'Malley and recalled better times when Ehrlich was in power.
Taking the stage before about 100 onlookers, Ehrlich harkened back to July 4, 2009, when he marched as a grand marshal in Dundalk's Fourth of July parade. The route was 2 miles long, he said, and as he passed by, he inspired standing ovations from crowds.
The zeal that day was part of what motivated him to run, he said, and finding those supporters will be key to a GOP win.