WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore did not spend too much time or money in Maryland before Election Day, but he still won 57 percent of the vote here, easily outdistancing GOP nominee George Bush’s 40 percent.
The 1,093,344 votes cast for Gore were more than have been cast for any presidential candidate in the state’s history, said Secretary of State John Willis, who noted that Gore even topped the 54 percent of the Maryland vote President Clinton won in 1996.
But Maryland was long considered a safe state for Gore, which meant he did not really need to pay special attention to the state. And Bush did not campaign much in Maryland for the same reason.
“Both knew way in advance that Maryland was going to go to Al Gore,” said Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s.
Willis, author of “Presidential Elections in Maryland,” said Gore’s comfortable margin of victory is just another sign that the state’s “trend line is in the Democratic favor” and probably will not be disturbed. Gore even won Charles County, which has not voted for a Democratic president since 1976, Willis noted.
Ellen Sauerbrey, chairwoman of the Maryland for Bush campaign, said she recognizes that this is a heavily Democratic state, but still expected better returns for Bush.
“The most surprising part is that we did more voter identification and get-out-the-vote yesterday (Tuesday). We made thousands of calls and did not get the kind of results as we thought,” Sauerbrey said.
Bush even raised more money in Maryland, according to the Federal Election Commission, bringing in $1.8 million between Jan. 1, 1999, and Oct. 18, 2000, to Gore’s $1.5 million.
But both Sauerbrey and Willis said the money raised in Maryland was not relevant to the race here, because it was spent in other, more contested states.
“We are a wealthy state and candidates are going to come here to raise money. If it’s not spent here, it’s irrelevant to the vote,” Willis said.
Sauerbrey said it was the Washington suburbs that propelled Gore in Maryland.
“The whole state was dominated by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and to a lesser extent Baltimore City,” she said. “The Washington suburbs have a heavy amount of federal workers. It’s hard to convince them that they are better off with a tax cut.”
She also said that Baltimore City has a lot of recipients of social services who are “oriented to more government.”
But Miller said Marylanders were already “energized for Gore” because they know him so well.
“Maryland surrounds Washington, D.C. We read about him everyday,” Miller said. “People in Maryland got to watch him grow up. . . .He’s almost homefolk. People know him very well and like his policy.”
Sauerbrey said Tuesday’s showing by Gore will make potential GOP candidates in the future “give thought” to the challenges they might face here. She conceded that Maryland is a “difficult state” for Republicans.
Willis said the situation is more than just difficult for Republicans, noting that campaigning here was hardly necessary for Democrats.
“Maryland is almost like an experiment. We’re like the control model,” he said. “(The campaigns said) `We’ll leave Maryland alone and won’t put a lot of money or advertising and see what happens.’ And, what happened was Maryland stayed the same.”