Ronald Reagan was supposed to stop by in Marylannd yesterday -- if the scheduling could be worked out. But he didn't; a date in Texas was more important.
George Bush plans to spend two days in Maryland next week. But except for one firm appointment, a Rotary Club luncheon in Annapolis, no one in his campaign knows yet quite where he'll be, whom he'll be seeing, or what he'll be doing.
Out of the news, and for the moment, out of the action, Maryland's Republican presidential campaign organizations are confined to the outskirts of the national political arena, waiting for the May 13 primary to draw nearer and the time when, they hope, they'll really be a part of the things.
The Reagan forces can do little but wait. While state campaign officials talk of scores of volunteers who are making telephone calls from home to identify Reagan voters, the national campaign has given them no money for mailings or radio and television advertisements in Maryland.
"This is just not a critical state for Ronald Reagan," said state Republican Party Chairman Allan Levey. "Even if Reagan doesn't campaign, he'll still win some delegates."
That still means frustration for Reagan supporters left to manage things in a stepchild state. Right now they have just about enough money to pay salaries of three full-time staff members, the phone bill, and the $1,200-a-month rent on the campaign's carpeted, seven-room suite of offices in Wheaton.
The offices were rented last year when plans for the Maryland campaign were a little more grandiose. But when the Reagan campaign edged near its spending limit nationally, the state budget was cut way back. "We've been flying by the seat of our pants," 26-year-old campaign manager Bill Lacy said.
While they may be frustrated, Reagan campaign officials are still optimistic they'll do much better than 1976, when not a single Reagan delegate was elected in Maryland's primary. Lacy and campaign chairman Don Devine are confident of winning a respectable portion of the state's 30 delegates this time.
The Bush campaign can't settle for a respectable showing, not with mathematical elimination apparently just around the corner for their candidate. mMaryland Republicans traditionally hold moderate views that are out of step with Reagan's conservative pronouncements. It is logical for Bush to do well here -- logical and essential.
Far more activity can be seen at Bush's Silver Spring headquarters that at the Reagan offices in Wheaton. The names of the major Bush supporters are well known around the state: his cochairman are former senator J. Glenn Beall and Jane Gude, a longtime activist and wife of former Montgomery County congressman Gilbert Gude.
Telephone banks of a half-dozen phones each are in operation in Bush headquarters in Silver Spring and Towson and "home headquarters" have been set up around Montgomery to make sure the 88,000 registered Republicans in the county know Bush's name, face and ideas.
But officials in the campaign's national office are still preoccupied with other primaries and won't decide for a few days how much money to spend on TV and radio spots in the key Baltimore and Washington areas.
"We haven't made the media decisions yet," said Susan Morrison, a press spokeswoman for the national Bush campaign. State cochairman J. Glenn Beall said a direct mailing would be going out this weekend to Republicans in Montgomery. Prince George's, Hartford and Baltimore counties and Baltimore city.
"And when (Bush) gets here next week, obviously that'll be a boost to the campaign," said Beall.
Despite the energy of Bush's campaign here and its natural affinity with Maryland Republican traditions, the organization has had its problems: a few internal feuds that soured some of its supporters.
The incident that caused the most rancor occurred about two months ago, when an executive committee of the state campaign gathered to designate 24 delegates as Bush supporters -- three delegates in each of the state's eight congressional districts.
When the meeting was over, the name of 24-year-old Quinn Scamahorn had been left off the list of the 8th District designees, although he had been running Bush's campaign effort in Montgomery County for a year, starting when the onetime U.S. ambassador and onetime Texas congressman was considered an also-ran.
"Apparently the feeling of Jane (Gude), Beall and [Bush regional campaign director Dorann] Gunderson was that my name recognition wasn't high enough," said Scamahorn, who ran for a state delegate's post in a highly Democratic area of Silver Spring in 1978 and did surprisingly well, although he did not win.
Scamahorn, who insisted "I have not got hurt feelings over this business," nevertheless resigned the county chairmanship shortly after he was passed over, saying he needed to devote most of his time to establishing his political consulting firm.
The incident focused some animosity on Gunderson, a Wisconsin native whose ties to Bush stem in part from her work on the Republican National Committee, and was sent in to preside over the organizations in Maryland, the District -- where she now lives -- and Delaware.
Gunderson was out of town late last week and could not be reached for comment on the incident. Beall said that the process of selecting delegates involved "hard decisions," but that he didn't think any resentment remained.
Beall himself chose not to run as a Bush delegate in his western Maryland district, despite his post at the head of the Bush campaign.
Since the delegates are bound by the preference of the voters in their district, and "since [State Sen.] Ed Thomas, [State Sen.] Ed Mason and I thought we were a little more popular out there than the [presidential] candidates," they decided to join together as a slate for uncommitted delegates, Beall said.
"The Reagan people are going out of their way to play it low key and not alienate anyone, because they don't have to alienate anyone," said party chairman Levey.
Reagan campaign manager Bill Lacy, fantasizing how he would have done things if he had had the $250,000 or so he once hoped to get, said recently, "You don't have to talk about issues all that much . . . What I'd like to do with Reagan is play up his record [as governor of] California.
"That shows pragmatism. Maryland Republicans could really respond to that." But it is Reagan in the flesh that his supporters could respond to even more.
And Reagan in the flesh is hard to come by these days, at least in states like Maryland.
"We had him scheduled for [Friday] and they stole him for Texas, so now I'm trying to steal him from another state," said Reagan's Maryland Chairman Don Devine. "They screamed and yelled, now we're trying to scream and yell."