By Ananda Shorey
WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley will rally in College Park Friday in an effort to boost his chances in Maryland, which supporters and some pollsters call a very competitive state for the former senator.
But others say Bradley’s Maryland swing is too little, too late in a state that they say is all but locked up by Vice President Al Gore, who won the New Hampshire Democratic primary by a 5 percentage point margin Tuesday.
“Every poll has showed us as being ahead,” said Susan Turnbull, Gore’s state executive committee chair. “He has overwhelming support in Maryland.”
Bradley arrived here Thursday from San Francisco and spent the night in College Park, where he was scheduled to rally Friday on campus with the College Democrats.
Bradley’s success in Maryland will depend on the amount of attention he gives the state in the coming months, said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc.
Coker said that while Gore has more support from elected officials here, he thinks Maryland’s March 7 primary will be very competitive on the Democratic side. He said that if Bradley spends more time and money in the state, he has a shot at Gore.
“Maryland is an opportunity state for Bradley,” Coker said. “He needs to take advantage of it.”
But an American University professor who is an expert on presidential campaigns does not think Bradley has enough time to get the support he needs to win Maryland. Allan Lichtman said he thinks Gore has the most support from Maryland residents.
“I would give the edge to Gore on the Democratic side in Maryland,” he said.
But a former state coordinator for Bradley said the fact that Gore did not land a knockout blow in New Hampshire shows the senator’s strength.
“People say that it is a very close race and Senator Bradley is a very viable candidate,” said Roger Berliner, the coordinator. “He has five weeks to get his message out.”
Turnbull said she is not concerned, however, adding that Gore’s supporters propelled him to victory in New Hampshire and that they will do the same in Maryland.
“Team Maryland is going to pull this through in the same way they did for Governor Parris Glendening,” she said.
Coker could not provide current polling data on the Democratic primary in Maryland, but a Mason-Dixon poll in October showed Bradley and Gore statistically neck to neck in the state. Since then, however, Gore has spent $36,357 in Maryland compared to $277 for Bradley, according reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
A Bradley state coordinator said that the campaign has not had to spend much money in Maryland because it has so many supporters who are willing to give of their time.
“We are doing it without the money because we can,” said Meaghan Beaumont, the coordinator.
Turnbull said Gore does not have to spend money in Maryland, either. She said the money that the campaign has been spent since October was for Secret Service agents who protected the vice president while he was in the state.
“He has spent nothing in Maryland because we have such tremendous support,” Turnbull said. “But he is not taking Maryland for granted.”