Edward Kennedy came here this afternoon to open his Maryland campaign with three quick appearances and a drive through the city's working class neighborhood.

Kennedy made brief speeches to union leaders at a steelworkers hall in Dundalk and to about 300 persons who paid $50 each to attend a fund-raising reception at the Baltimore Civic Center. He stopped in between at the Fell's Point home of Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) who today was named chairperson of Kennedy's Maryland campaign committee.

The brief trip was intended mainly to encourage organizational and fund-raising efforts for the state's May 13 primary. "We're here to raise the bucks," said Mikulski as she strode with Kennedy to the Civic Center. "We'll be back later to campaign with you."

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts senator did seem to please those who heard him speak or who lined the streets of Dundalk to watch his motorcade. The crowd of union workers who waited for Kennedy around tables supplied with pitchers of beer and styrofoam cups cheered lustily as he delivered his standard stump attack on President Carter's economic policies.

At the convention center, Kennedy was greeted by a host of party and elected officials from around the state who have decided to endorse him.

Many of these people who will work on the Maryland Kennedy committee are familiar from past campaigns of liberal state candidates, including former gubernatorial candidate and Baltimore county executive Theodore Venetoulis. Venetoulis himself is not on the list. Instead, he was in Dundalk tonight to interview Kennedy for a local television station.

Tonight's fund-raiser was the first major event of Kennedy's Maryland campaign, which has faced the difficult task of organizing and fund-raising after most of the state's elected officials endorsed Carter in January.

Even as Kennedy organizers were piecing together their state campaign committee list Tuesday, the Carter forces threw a party to open their Baltimore office that attracted Gov. Harry Hughes, Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer, two county executives and a host of the about 200 other state elected officials that have endorsed Carter.

In contrast the Kennedy campaign, which has unsuccessfully tried to win the endorsement of the state's highest remaining uncommitted official, Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, counts Mikulski as its most widely-known supporter.

Both the Carter and Kennedy supporters say that the imbalance in official support may be more than offset by Maryland's generally liberal tendencies in statewide elections and by the votes of government workers hostile to Carter in suburban Washington.

"The campaign has been on a crazy roller-coaster all along," says William Harvey, a Presbyterian minister from Anne Arundel County who is Kennedy's deputy campaign manager. "It really may depend in part on what the swing is four weeks from now."

Both the Carter and Kennedy camps are predicting that the Maryland primary, which will be the first major campaign event after the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, could assume significance far beyond the modest total of 59 convention delegates that will be elected.

"If you divide the primary campaign into thirds, our scenario would be that Carter does well in the first third, the second is a standoff ending with Pennsylvania, and Kennedy does well in the last third," said James Flug, Kennedy's Maryland campaign director.

"That last third really begins in the first weeks of May, and Maryland is the first big primary."

"In terms of absolute delegates, Maryland is not critical for us," said Ed Crawford, Carter's campaign director. "But in terms of continuing emotion and success, it's the next big one after Pennsylvania, and it's right in our own backyard."

Neither campaign has yet set its budget for the next month -- both plan to allot money for media time and other major expenses within the next week or so -- and neither has done any polling so far.

Flug says that Kennedy will be back to Maryland before primary day, and Crawford promised that Vice President Walter Mondale and Rosalynn Carter will both make campaign swings through the state.

"Right now, I would say that everyone is in a state of enthusiastic apathy," said Harvey. "We're still four weeks away. But as we get closer Marylanders will get excited about this one."