Sen. Edward M. Kenndy had just finished taking questions from Montgomery County's Suburban Women's Democratic Club yesterday when Marge Geisler, who had asked him about his image as a big government spender, decided she was inclined to vote for him in next week's Maryland primary.
"He convinced me that he would look carefully at some of these federal programs," Geisler said. "He gave me a feeling of confidence in him. And I don't like the idea of having a closed convention, with the nomination wrapped up."
Kennedy traveled through Maryland yesterday doggedly continuing his quest for convention delegates, the Massachusetts senator left voters like Geisler behind as witnesses of his greatest advantage in Maryland this week -- his presence.
"When I've seen him on television, I don't know, he just shouts so much, I haven't liked it very much," said Sylvia Cutter, one of those who watched Kennedy yesterday. "But in person he made a good impression. He really came across to me and I understand what he's doing."
While Jimmy Carter's campaign strategists, focusing on the delegate count and the primary campaign spending limit they are rapidly approaching, have shown only modest interest in the 59 delegates Maryland will choose next Tuesday, Kennedy has chosen to spend five days in the state.
His campaign officials say that Maryland may be the state Kennedy has the best chance of winning between now and the crucial June 3 primaries.
As he worked his way through stops at a meeting of black ministers, a Greek community gathering and a Democratic club rally in Baltimore last night, Kennedy sounded the theme of Carter's refusal to "engage in a dialogue on the economic issues" again and again, and urged the crowds not to believe that the Democratic campaign was over.
"I'm reminded where the Baltimore Orioles were a year ago," Kennedy told a noisy crowd at the Meat Cutters Hall in northeast Baltimore, where the 3rd District Democratic Club gathered to hear him. "They were a little bit behind in May of last year but they moved ahead in June of last year."
Many of those who heard him speak seemed sympathetic to his continuing campaign, even if they disagreed with him on issues.
"There really ought to be a dialogue, at least," said Fern Krauss, a party official who attended the women's meeting in Rockville. "I'm undecided so far, but I'd like to see the campaign continue. Kennedy seems to be on the right track with that."
Curt Wiley, who began working as Carter's Maryland campaign manager on Monday, confirmed the growing feelings of state coordinators that Maryland is not of great importance to the Carter campaign, which so far has relied almost entirely on the endorsements of state officials and unions for its momentum.
"After today's primaries we will have somewhere around 1,400 delegates," Wiley said. "What we need in Maryland is to get a good delegate split and make the best showing that we can. We just haven't had the literature and resources to come in in a big way. There have been other Tuesdays."
Wiley said that only $20,000 has been budgeted for the statewide effort this week -- although Carter's supporters have raised more than $400,000 in Maryland -- and that no money had been allocated yet for buying commerical time on local television.
While Kennedy and several of his relatives stump the state, the Carter campaign is relying primarily on the efforts of state officials and Rosalynn Carter, who will appear in Maryland on Monday.
Meanwhile, Carter coordinators, who worked without a full-time campaign manager until Wiley's arrival, will receive their first printed literature today. "I've had people ready to make plant drops and convassing for a while, but nothing to give them," complained one local organizer yesterday.
"They are letting this whole campaign fall apart," said Nathan Landown, who is Carter's finance chairman in the state. "I feel honestly that the effort from national in Maryland should have started a lot sooner. To bring a guy in this late is kind of a lost cause."
Carter campaigners also point out that a number of the 300 state officials who endorsed the president in January -- including Gov. Harry Hughes and Baltimore County Executive Donald Hutchinson -- are working actively this week, and the only poll in the state so far, by a Baltimore television station, showed Carter ahead by nearly three to one.
But both sides were agreeing last night that the final vote was likely to be close. "I think it's up in the air," said Wiley. "We're just going to be working to get our vote out."