For Md.'s Cardin, the Delight Is in the Details

U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and his wife of more than 40 years, Myrna, met as children growing up
U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and his wife of more than 40 years, Myrna, met as children growing up "in a neighborhood where families knew everybody." (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 3, 2006

A few years ago, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin was asked to throw out the first pitch at an upcoming Orioles game.

He got two baseball gloves and put them in his car. Wherever he went, his wife, Myrna, recalled, he would take out the gloves and a ball and practice.

All summer, he practiced, she remembered.

Nah, he said, it was more like one week, maybe two.

Whatever.

The day came. Cardin took the mound, reared back and fired. "Great pitch," he joked. "It went over the plate. Without any bouncing. No one could have hit it."

It was vintage Cardin. Serious, meticulous, prepared to the last detail. Friends say he has been that way through 20 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and 20 more as a U.S. congressman from Maryland.

Now Cardin (D) is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes (D), promising to approach the job with the same serious attention to detail he gave to the big pitch.

But all those years of practice -- the hundreds of votes he has cast and the quiet, workhorse reputation he has acquired -- could work against him this time, with an electorate in a decidedly anti-incumbent mood and a throng of candidates in the Democratic primary scrambling to be considered the outsider.

Cardin is bald and a bit portly. Easy to overlook in a crowd -- even at his own campaign events. He wears dusty black loafers, drives a Pontiac, collects stamps. People say he lacks charisma, is a "a nuts-and-bolts" guy, a "policy and politics" guy.

A detail guy who reveres the political and legislative processes.

Cardin tells a story about how, as a rookie member of the Maryland House in 1967, he first put his hands on the levers of local politics.


CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company