When Maryland delegates to the Democratic National Convention climbed off their train here Sunday, they were followed by the Nominee. And all over the city the last three days, at nearly every hour, the Nominee has been stalking them.
The Nominee -- Edward T. Conroy -- has the difficult task of unseating the state's popular Republican U.S. senator, Charles McC.Mathias, in the November election. Conroy has very little money, and although he is a state senator, not enough name recognition.
In short, Conroy could use some help. So he has done everything he can think of to win the attention of the party members here and remind them, as he puts it, "I am the nominee of the party."
Conroy did not just come to this city; he moved his campaign here, renting two $100-a-day rooms at the Holiday Inn with the Maryland delegation. He threw an $800 champagne breakfast for the delegates this morning, and with the help of four staff members and a big, blue-rented Cadillac, has pursued party leaders long into the night.
Wherever he finds them, Conroy explains to the delegates that he is their only statewide candidate -- the Nominee -- and that if they get behind him, the money and media attention will follow.
By today, Conroy was confident that his work was paying off. And in any case, his press aide, Rich Scott, said, "If we had not come up here, it would have been very obvious. I think it could have badly damaged us."
Not all the delegates agree.
"He doesn't have a chance," said Democratic delegate Paul Yorkis after this morning's breakfast. "I mean, he's a nice guy, but nice guys don't win campaigns. This delegation voter overwhelmingly is in favor of abortion. He's against it. And he needs polish. I mean at breakfast this morning, he didn't even introduce his wife."
"I'll probably end up voting for Mathias," said Kennedy delegate Skip Strobe of Oxon Hill. "But a free breakfast is a free breakfast -- he [Conroy] seems like a nice guy."
But Conroy declares: "The trip was worth it. We've talked to all the delegates, and the response has been overwhelmingly good. The party is united."
Thanks to some adept timing, Conroy, at the very least, has received some media exposure for his money. When the Maryland delegation first caucused on Sunday, for example, Montgomery congressman and "open convention" leader Michael Barnes stood up to speak, and a crowd of photographers gathered in front of him.
When Barnes was finished, Conroy quickly replaced him on the stage and got his first statement to the delegation filmed as well. He was interviewed on the convention floor by Washington radio and Baltimore television, and made it again today by delaying his remarks at his breakfast until a television crew dropped by.
His fund-raising efforts have been a little more sluggish. Although he hoped to find a host of wealthy contributors around the convention, Conroy did not collect any money here, though he said he spent about $1,700.
He did meet, he said with a group of old college friends from Fordham, and they agreed to set up an alumni reception on Conroy's behalf. "They won't sell tickets," Conroy explained. "But at the reception we'll ask for contributions." That event, however, is about a month away.
Meanwhile, Conroy's attempts to solidify support within his party seem to have met with mixed success.
The work began on the train from Maryland Sunday, when Conroy went up and down the aisles, speaking with each delegate and telling them about his campaign. As a moderate like Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson, the Washington State Democrat, Conroy hopes to win conservative votes.
Since then, Conroy has been everywhere the delegates have been, handing them stickers, shaking their hands and trying to correct their defeatist predictions.
Some delegates seem to feel, though, that it is Conroy who is failing to get the message. After breakfast today, Carter alternate delegate James Melton of Baltimore, a beefy, cigar-toting man, told Conroy bluntly, "You've got your hands full with the fella Mathias."
"We can beat him," Conroy quickly replied.
"But what I'm saying to you is," Melton patiently explained, "it's not going to be any cakewalk."
Uncommitted delegate Peter Messitte of Montgomery County, Mathias' traditional stronghold, said "Mathias was my congressman before he became senator. I think he's a good Republican who's done well. I wish Conroy luck. But I'm taking a walk on this one."
Many of the delegates, of course, are impressed by Conroy's dogged work this week. "He's turned things around for himself with some people," said Gus Gentile, a Kennedy delegate from Montgomery. "There was some hostility in Montgomery toward him during the primary, but he's cleared up a lot of that. He's done a good job."
Other delegates say they are just used to Conroy, known as an aggressive state senator from Bowie. "Hey, we in Prince George's are used to this," one delegate from the county said privately. "We've gone through this stuff with Ed Conroy every day for 10 years."