Jacqueline Smelkinson was sitting in her campaign office in Baltimore the other day trying to explain why her boss, Theodore G. Venetoulis, is running - literally running, in the middle of streets, down the sidewalks and up the steps - in his effort to become the next governor of Maryland.

"We're trying to convey the image of someone with limitless energy, with vitality, with hope, with all the components of the American work ethic," Smelkinson said, so caught up in her own words that it appeared at any moment she would burst out of the office and sprint down a street or two.

"The work ethic means you don't sit back in a chair and ponder. It means you get up early and go to bed late."

She stopped for a second and looked at two pictures in the morning newspaper. One was of Venetoulis newspaper. One was of Venetoulis running. "This means uplift," she said. The other was of Acting Gov. Blair Lee III sitting pensively. "And that is depressing, sleep and quietude, death."

There are four images at work in the Maryland Democratic primary for governor. You have just encountered one of them - Ted Energy. His competitors are Blair Experience III, Harry Class and Wally Savvy. They can be seen on television, heard on radio, read about in newspapers and brochures and, to a lesser extent, witnessed in person.

The campaign managers, consultants and advertising experts say that there is little difference between the images that are conveyed through these methods and the real men - Venetoulis, Lee, Harry R. Hughes and Walter S. Orlinsky. They maintain, in the words of Lee consultant Joseph Napolitan, that if there is a gap at all it is that "most candidates, honest to God, are better than their image."