Sandy Marshall stood patiently in the back of a community college gymnasium in Arnold yesterday, waiting more than three hours for the arrival of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as rock music blared over loudspeakers.
The Anne Arundel County nurse said she wasn't bothered a bit.
"I'm missing a lobster dinner, but it's well worth it," said Marshall, 44, who clutched a Kerry for President placard.
Edwards's appearance at the Arnold campus probably was the only glimpse Marylanders will have of a major-party candidate in the closing months of the election.
With the Democratic ticket enjoying a comfortable lead in most Maryland polls, neither President Bush nor Sen. John F. Kerry nor either of their running mates had campaigned in Maryland in recent months. Nor have the candidates invested much in advertising in a state that Democrat Al Gore carried over Bush in 2000 by 17 points.
Kerry and Edwards also have avoided the District, except for trips home to the overwhelmingly Democratic city. And after a brief bid to capture Virginia's 13 electoral votes, they have been scarce in the Old Dominion, where Bush is expected to prevail.
"Thank you for being so patient," Edwards said at the outset of an abbreviated, 10-minute stump speech in which he portrayed Bush as out of touch on Iraq and the economy. "You have no idea how much energy you give me just by being here tonight."
The chartered plane carrying Edwards and his staff from Cleveland was delayed about 45 minutes last night after its pilot aborted takeoff when a light on his console indicated a failed generator in the aircraft's third engine. The 727-200, operated by Champion Air, was on the runway at Burke Lakefront Airport when the flight was aborted about 5 p.m.
In Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) advised Bush in August against campaigning in person for the state's 10 electoral votes, saying during a radio interview that Bush "needs to be in the states he can potentially win."
But yesterday, Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane sought to portray yesterday's visit by Edwards as a sign that Democrats are starting to worry about their ability to carry Maryland.
The overflow crowd of more than 1,000 was greeted by about three dozen Bush-Cheney activists chanting, "Four more years."
The Democrats who gathered played down that possibility but said they weren't taking anything for granted.
Suzanne Tubis, a "40-something" Arnold resident who works in marketing, said she and her husband hosted a debate party and worked on phone banks to try to get voters to the polls for Kerry and Edwards on Nov. 2.
She blamed Democrats' apathy for the election in 2002 of Ehrlich, a Republican.
"I just had to see one of the candidates," Tubis said, as her 6-year-old son danced to the blaring music before Edwards's arrival. "There have been no other events in Maryland."
Edwards's visit was billed in part as a thank-you to Maryland Democrats who have volunteered in the neighboring battleground states of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The party plans to continue those efforts this weekend, sending busloads of activists to attend out-of-state rallies and participate in door-to-door get-out-the-vote efforts.
After the rally, Edwards was to attend a fundraiser hosted by Wayne Rogers, an Annapolis businessman and former chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. Tickets were $15,000 per person or $27,000 per couple, according to an invitation. The money was to be steered to a Democratic National Committee account.
Ehrlich, meanwhile, campaigned yesterday for Bush in Minnesota as part of a coordinated effort to use Republican governors to bolster the president's campaign.
Staff writer Chris L. Jenkins contributed to this report.