ANNAPOLIS -- He spent more than $2 million, abandoned a unique, feel-good campaign strategy for hard-nosed, vote-getting politics -- and still saw his lead in the polls shrink. As Election Day approaches, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer is not a happy man.

"People have said it's time to throw them all out, but when you start, you throw away some good ones," Schaefer said at a Baltimore campaign rally Thursday, referring to anti-incumbent sentiment that has endangered some of his political allies and chipped away at his still-commanding lead.

Simply to win in Tuesday's election, he made clear to the group, is not enough: "We're going to have a percentage so high that even reporters won't believe how many people are coming out . . . . People have said this is going to be my swan song. If you think I am going to sit and watch the world go by, you are wrong."

Autumn has been an unexpectedly gloomy season for Maryland's chief executive, who turned 69 yesterday. With a large lead in the polls and a fat bank account, his aides had envisioned this campaign as a sort of roving carnival to honor Schaefer's 30-year political career. It hasn't quite worked that way.

Instead, the governor is frustrated that his campaign hasn't made more of a mark on voters, particularly on the Eastern Shore. A recent poll showing his support below 60 percent -- and his Republican opponent, William S. Shepard, doubling his early standing -- sent Schaefer into a pre-election funk, his aides say.

"I want 100 percent," Schaefer told the crowd at a Prince George's County rally this week.

He was only half-joking. Schaefer is a moody man who dislikes dissent, and feels strongly that he deserves another term. As a practical matter, he also wants a mandate when he hunkers down to the task he likes least -- dealing with the General Assembly.

It is unclear whether he will get it. "This {campaign} was going to be the climax, and what has happened is the times have determined that all incumbents are going to have a hard time," said Allan C. Levey, a former head of the state GOP and one of several prominent Republicans supporting Schaefer.

When protest candidate Fred Griisser won 22 percent of the Democratic primary vote in September, Schaefer fumed at the results and reorganized his election strategy. The novel "Campaign for Maryland," announced by an uncharacteristically modest Schaefer last summer as a way to turn his reelection into a call for civic activism, was jettisoned in favor of more traditional tactics.

With a half-million-dollar advertising budget and $116,000 spread among other candidates Schaefer supports, even Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg worried about the perception of overkill. Shunning discussion of issues such as a possible tax hike and growth controls the state will face in the next four years, the campaign and most of Schaefer's Cabinet went to work accentuating the past. The message to voters: Schaefer puts the state's money where his mouth is.

He carried lists of renovated bridges and roads to the Eastern Shore, where Griisser's support was heaviest, and highlighted elsewhere the businesses and industrial plants his administration supported with state-backed loans. Aides say the campaign should not be criticized for spending too much on an election that is not considered close, because it is the governor's chief opportunity to contact voters.

"What he feels is that he and the {Cabinet} . . . have not done a very good job . . . of letting people know what the state has done," said campaign manager Jim Smith.

One Washington area lawmaker put it differently: "Schaefer defines a majority different than the rest of us."

By most measures, there is little room for Schaefer to complain. His campaign received widespread financial support from around the state, earned the trust of Washington area voters once suspicious of the former Baltimore mayor, and won endorsements from labor and environmental groups strongly opposed to him in 1986. His reception in Western Maryland, said Smith, has been almost presidential, with supporters hanging from windows and flags lining the streets. Even the gloomiest scenarios leave him with a comfortable win in Tuesday's voting, and a majority of 65 percent -- which would be a record for a Maryland governor seeking a second term -- is not improbable.

The campaign's positive notes are tempered also by a streak of bad news. Since the primary, state economic forecasts worsened, as did a projected state budget shortfall. An inmate mistakenly discharged from prison under an administration early release program was later arrested for allegedly killing three people; and the state's first rockfish season in five years -- an event sure to leave sportsmen with fond feelings on Election Day -- turned controversial when natural resource officials had to close it after only nine days.

With anti-tax groups badgering incumbents in the suburbs and the federal budget wrangle tainting all officeholders, Schaefer campaign aides said they, too, are feeling frustrated.

"This campaign has been affected by the national mood," said spokeswoman Ricki Baker. "The general tone of anti-incumbency, sort of 'Get a big broom and sweep clean.' "

It is that mood, pollsters say, that is partly behind a late boost that gave Shepard 30 percent of the vote in a recent statewide opinion survey. Shepard has made little apparent progress on other issues he raises on the campaign trail, but has been a chief cheerleader for the tax revolt groups organizing in the Baltimore and Washington suburbs. He blames Schaefer's big-ticket spending for the state's budget shortfall, a criticism that may bring support in some of the more rebellious jurisdictions, such as Baltimore County.