The granddaddies of Maryland's Grand Old Party couldn't write a better scenario for a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Within the past several months, Maryland's Democratic Party has been severly shaken, some say shattered, by the criminal convictions of its political leader. Marvin Mandel, and the party's three most powerful fund raisers. The already heated Democratic primary contest has further shredded the party as the candidates publicly disagree over the Mandel legacy and compete, for media attention, political support and campaign money.
With the Democrats in disarray many political observes believe the Republican Party has its best chance of capturing the Statehouse in Annapoils since Spiro T. Agnew marched through a divided Democratic field in 1966.
Less than a year from election day, however, it is the Democrats who are making all the noise, monopolizing the air waves, raising campaign dough, lying strategies and canvassing. Only John W. Hardwicke, a little know former member of the House of Delegates and harford County Council, has openly sought thr Republican nomination.
So it must been with some relief for GOP stalwarts when Anne Arundel County Executive Robert A. Pascal attracted 1,200 persons to a $50-a-head fundraiser in Severna Park last week. It must be a sign of the times for state Republicans that Pascal is considered the party's frontrunner, even though he has shown little interest thus far in making the race.
"We don't make noise." explained Dr. Aris T. Allen, the optimistic state Republican chairman. "We just move ahead."
And how is the GOP moving ahead in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin?
"We're letting know that the Republican Party is move than the party of the rich man, more than the party of big business." Allen said in an interview. "We're letting them know that we're also the party of the masses of the people. It's the party for everyone."
This so-called democraticization of the Republican Party - through so called "candidates college" where prospective pols and campaign managers are tought the lessons of electioneering and "leadership seminars" with community groups - will broaden the party's base and improve the chances of GOP candidates next fall, according to Allen.
"I think we have better than a ripe opportunity," Allen said "I think people are ready for a change. These political convictions are fresh in the minds of the people."
Pascal, a 43-year-old former state senator, is most often mentioned as the GOP's likely standard bearer for the change. He is not well known outside his Anne Arundel County, but political observers believe the being an "outsider" may be an asset in the wake of political corruption in the state's capital. As the head of suburban county, moreover, he talks the language and discuss the issue meaningful to the new suburban voters who make up an increasingly important chunk of Maryland's electorate.
If Pascal should decide to take the plunge, he will probably be without the help of one of his key supporters and strategist. Hermann K. Intemann. In a brilliant political stroke last June. Acting Gov. Blair Lee 111 appointed Intemann secretary of transportation, thus removing him at least temporatily from the campaign.
The other Repulicans who are mentioned as possible candidates for the state's highest elective post are former U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall Montgomery County Executive James Gleason, former U.S. Rep. Larry Hogan and Louise Gore, who won the GOP nod in 1974 and then lost to Mandel by a large vote.
To a large extent, their decision will be influenced as much by the Democrats as the republicans. If Lee emerges as a formidable candidate after the coming legislative session. Republican incumbents, such as Pascal, may be less likely to give up their positions for a futile run for governor. It may be Lee's success in making a smooth transition that has stayed their hand up to now.
"If Blair looks strong," said one Democratic strategist, "the (Republican) incumbents are going to look twice before taking him on."
Because of the small size of their party, Republican candidates can normally enter a primary fight later than their Democratic counterparts. Raising money generally an easier task for the GOP in Maryland because of the party's traditional access to big money, especially if a candidate seems to have a good shot for the governorship.
The narrow base of the Republican Party in Maryland also presents problems for statewidew political hopeful. Without unity, the Democrats have difficult time winning. But a fracture Republican Party means doom for the GOP. Although it has healed some of the old wounds inflicted by a bitter liberal-conservative split of the 1960's, the Republican Party is still beset by idelogical difference. In a party whose leaders range in philosophy from the liberal U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. to the arch-conservative U.S. Rep. Robert E. Bauman, those ideological diferences are never easily resolved.