Eclectic, those 1,000 Maryland Republicans who ate breaded chicken with Ronald Reagan last night.
Page Lee Hufty, for instance, dropped in from My Lady's Manor. She wears understated beige and foxhunts a lot. Alice Gerstung came from Baltimore. She has blue hair and rhinestones. At one time, she also had a neighborhood bakery.
And then there was Charles Hopkins, a gentleman farmer in tweeds and plaid who perhaps put into words the political consensus of the night. "I think Ronald Reagan is a lovely old man," he said. "And if he's the nominee, I'll support him. I'll support a running wet dog if he runs as a Republican."
Reagan, to judge from the white-haired female fans he still sends into orbit, is no wet dog. But at the Maryland Republican Party fundraiser in Hunt Valley last night, he emerged as no guaranteed GOP elephant.
These Republicans had come from counties as far west as Garrett and as far north as Cecil to give Reagan a simple once-over. The fund-raising dinner, which raised an estimated $25,000 for the Republican Party, was just one of several similar events in Maryland at which presidential candidates speak. John Connally appeared in May, and George Bush and Howard Baker are scheduled for January.
Many in the crowd, including the local politicians always in abundance at this sort of thing, seemed divided among those candidates.
"I haven't made any commitments yet," said Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.). "I'm getting pressure from all sides, so I'm standing straight up."
But among those who had made commitments were the white-haired fans who remembered Reagan in "Knute Rockne -- All American" and as a silver-tongued radio announcer.
"I've followed him ever since he walked into Davenport, Iowa, to get his first job on WOC," said Grace Kelly, who calls herself a 70-year-old housewife from Annapolis. "He's a good man. I'm going to work for him all the way to the White House."
Reagan, whose 68-year-old head is still not silver-haired (and whose barber swears the brown is real) arrived at the Hunt Valley Marriott Inn just as the crowded, cash-bar-and-potato-chip reception was warming up. Barricaded by aides and a roped-off walk-way, he expertly worked the crowd. The grin slashed, the eyes twinkled, and the crow's-feet were nicely high-lighted by a healthy tan.
"Handsome," said one woman. "He's still handsome."
"Marvelous," said another.
Reagan handshook his way into a corner, where he took about three and a half questions from reporters. Yes, he considered Maryland an important state politically. (But in 1976, he never even showed up here and lost to Gerald Ford.) And no, he didn't think he was too old to be president.
But did he think everybody else thinks he's too old?
"Well," the former California governor replied, "maybe I'll have to take the other fellows on in an arm wrestle."
With that, he made his way from the lobby to a room full of party officials. It was called "Parlor A," to be exact. It was full of candlelight, some bacon rolls and lots of Maryland pols like: Mathias, Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan, State Party Chairman Alan Levy, and others who paid $100 to be there.
Reagan worked the crowd here, too, stopping long enough for pictures with Harry Kelley, the Ocean City mayor, who wore an all-white suit.
Reagan, considered the Repulican front-runner by national pollsters, hit the traditional conservative themes in his speech: limited government, tax cuts, inflation and military boosts. He wants the Russians out of Cuba, the bureaucracy out of Washington and Carter out of the White House.
"A man who tells you he enjoys a cold shower in the morning," he said, meaning Carter, "will lie about everything," It's a line Reagan has used word for word for months.