WASHINGTON – Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman had raised the most money of all the Democratic presidential hopefuls in Maryland as of Sept. 30, the last date for which figures are available from the Federal Election Commission.
But by this month, he could finish no better than third in a poll of Maryland Democrats.
The second-biggest money winner in Maryland, Rep. Richard Gephardt, dropped out of the race last week and the currently surging Democrats, Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards, could finish no higher than third and fifth in the Maryland money race.
Experts say Marylanders do not appear to have pledged an allegiance to any one candidate — or they have seen their candidate leave the campaign — and that Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary will likely have a huge influence.
“I think it’s pretty fluid. It’s really up in the air,” said Frank Defilippo, a political commentator for WBAL. “New Hampshire is really going to play things out. The headline that comes out of New Hampshire will likely decide who gets the nomination.”
Maryland’s primary will be held March 2. A lot could change between now and then, if the last few months are any indication.
The FEC showed that Lieberman had raised $405,040 from individual donors in Maryland, just under 25 percent of the state’s donations to Democratic presidential hopefuls. Gephardt was next in line, with $358,726, which Defilippo attributed to the Missouri congressman’s strong backing from labor unions.
Kerry, of Massachusetts, raised $323,900 from Maryland and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was fourth, with $274,163. FEC records show that Edwards, of North Carolina, had raised $142,200 and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a late entry to the campaign, was in seventh place with $54,650 from Maryland.
But a poll of Maryland Democrats this month by Potomac Research Inc. said Dean would finish first, with 26 percent of the vote, followed by Clark with 11 percent and Lieberman with 9 percent. Twenty-six percent were undecided in the poll of 1,200 likely voters who were surveyed Jan. 2-5.
Lieberman campaign officials said they were not concerned by the poll.
“We are thrilled with the support we have from Marylanders and hope that translates into support in the primary there in Maryland,” said Adam Kovacevich, a Lieberman spokesman.
Potomac Research President Keith Haller said the level of financial support Lieberman received from Maryland could be explained by his candidacy for vice president in 2000.
“It’s not surprising that Lieberman would have generated substantial dollars from Maryland,” Haller said. “Having been the Democratic vice presidential nominee the last go-around, there’s a sizable number of large donors that supported the Democratic ticket, especially in Montgomery County and certain areas of the Baltimore region.”
But Haller’s January poll casts serious doubts on Lieberman’s chances to win the nomination, regardless of his fund-raising success, said Paul S. Herrnson, director of the non-partisan Center for American Politics and Citizenship.
“Lieberman can still be a viable candidate by primary date; then again, he probably will not be,” said Herrnson, who is also a professor of politics at the University of Maryland.
Dean, on the other hand, topped the poll but reported raising less than 10 percent of the individual contributions that came from Maryland.
But Dean campaign officials said the FEC numbers can be misleading, since donations under $200 do not show up in the quarterly reports. Alex Piarson, an accountant for Dean’s campaign, said his records indicate that Dean had raised $901,229 from Maryland through Sept. 30 — which would put him well ahead of the others.
That would still put Dean behind the biggest presidential fund raiser in Maryland, President Bush: The Republican incumbent had raised more than $1.1 million from Maryland individuals by Sept. 30, according to the FEC.
“Maryland is heavily Democratic,” Defilippo said. “But now with a Republican governor, the climate has changed.”
More than money is at stake as the primary season continues, however. When Gephardt dropped out of the race last week after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses — behind Kerry, Edwards and Dean — he left behind supporters, including Maryland Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer, Ben Cardin and Dutch Ruppersberger.
Hoyer and Cardin said this week that they are keeping their options open. Ruppersberger said he would wait at least until after the New Hampshire primary before deciding who to back.
Many Maryland Democrats may be playing a similar game of wait and see.
“Well, now all those folks who raised money for Gephardt are not going to have the opportunity to vote for him,” Herrnson noted.
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