There are, first of all, the political stereotypes.
A Baltimore politician has an ethnic name, a high school education, a clubhouse mentality and thinks a Rhodes scholar is someone who knows a lot about highways.
A surburban Washington politician has a name decorated with initials and numbers, an Ivy League education, a League of Women Voters mentality and no idea what or where Dundalk is.
The two political types live and function in the same state, Maryland, but represent two different worlds. On smells of sulphur, the other of azaleas. One eats from a lunch bucket, the other dines at an outdoor cafe. One struggles with social conditions, the other with social graces.
Then there are the basic economic facts.
In metropolitan Baltimore, nearly 90 percent of the work force is employed by private industry and the port of Baltimore is the foundation of the economy. The average family income ranges from $11,000 in the city to nearly $20,000 in the horse-shoe-shaped suburbs around it.
In the Maryland suburbs of Washington, nearly 30 percent of the people are employed by the federal government, which is the foundation of that region's economy. Their incomes are relatively inflation-proof, their jobs secured by civil service. The average family income ranges from $26,700 in Montgomery County to $23,400 in Prince George's.
And then there are the personal impressions, part stereotype, part fact.
"When I think of Montgomery," a Baltimore political said, "I think of wealth, of career women and governmental workers, of good government with no roots in what is practical. I think of three toilets and three cars."
"The Baltimore I think of," a Montgomery politician said, "is one of deals and fiefdoms and people who need our money."
Until this year, the metropolitan Baltimore vs. suburban Washington talk bubbled under the surface of Maryland's political structure. Much of it was regarded as a joke that had an element of truth to it.
Then, suddenly, Washington v. Baltimore became a symbol in a statewide political campaign. Candidates for governor began arguing about the differences between the two regions, about whether it is possible for one to understand the other. They began talking about median family incomes and work ethics here and there. It was, in a sense," "us" against them."
What started this was the May 31 announcement that Acting Gov. Blair Lee III of Montgomery County and Senate President Steny H. Hoyer of Prince George's would run as a team for governor and lieutenant governor in the September Democratic primary.
It was an unprecedented alliance - never before in state history and a gubernatorial ticket been comprised of two politicians from suburban Washington.
Immediately, and in unison, two of Lee's primary opponents from metropolitan Baltimore - Attorney General Francis Burch and Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. (Ted) Venetoulis - seized on the theme of geographical imbalance.
Burch, a millionaire who owns vacation homes in Ocean City, Md., and Florida, was particularly strident. "This pits the Baltimores against the Washington suburbs," he said. "It pits the working class against the monied interests."
It was not an off-the-cuff remark. Burch had anticipated the Lee-Hoyer alliance and had carefully planned his reaction. His issues man, former British television journalist Jo Durden-Smith, had been instructed to ferret out the census statistics to supplement Burch's rhetoric.
What Durden-Smith came up with was the fact that the median family incomes in Montgomery and Prince George's were as much as $7,000 higher than those in Baltimore City and its suburbs. Also, he found that the voter turnouts for statewide elections were markedly lower in suburban Washington than in the Baltimore region.
"Inevitably, these differences are very important," Durden-Smith said in a recent interview. "People of different economic classes have different political interests. It is clear that a large number of people down there (in suburban Washington) work in Washington. To them, Baltimore is a place up the road they don't think of much. They are the people who read the Post and Star rather than the Sun and News-American, and to whom Maryland politics are distant."
Phil Altfeld, Burch's campaign manager, offered a more political perspective. "We really do think the geographical differences are going to be a strong issue," he said. "It's a basic precept in politics that you look after your own first. With a Lee-Hoyer administration the greater Baltimore area can become a stepchild."
What the Burch campaign was attempting to do, clearly, was draw the kind of geographical cleavage in Maryland that can be found in other states, such as New York, where it is the city versus upstate, or Illinois, where it is Chicago versus downstate.
To the Democratic politicians of Prince George's County, it was a preposterious idea.
"Prince George's has more in common with Baltimore City than it does with Montgomery," argued John A. Lally, one of County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr.'s top aides. "In Prince George's and Baltimore, we worry about housing and education. In Montgomery, they worry about phosphates."
"I think the idea is ridiculous on its face," said Gerard Devlin, a leader of the Prince George's House delegation. "It's patronizing to the people of Baltimore. The Prince George's delegation has always supported Baltimore's interests because they are much like our own. We have an inner county similar to Baltimore's inner city. One-quarter of our people are black. There is a community of interest. We root for the Baltimore Colts, not the Washington Redskins."
Devlin added: "Polo is not a major sport in Bowie or Greenbelt, and I see very few yachtsmen's caps in Seat Pleasant."
The support the Prince George's delegation has given Baltimore has not been lost on the politicians of the state's largest city. Even Paul Weisengoff, the chairman of the Baltimore City House delegation, praised the Prince George residents while criticisizing the Lee-Hoyer ticket.
"That slate won't be responsive to our needs," Weisengoff said. "You have to come from here to really understand us. But I must say that the Prince George's delegates have worked very closely with us over the last four years. They've been able to bridge the gap."
It is the Montgomery politicians - Lee, in particular - who trouble Weisengoff.
"There's a bit of a wise-guy attitude there that antagonizes the people of Baltimore," he said. "There was a candidates' forum where Lee said, 'If we didn't have Baltimore City, we wouldn't have any tax problems at all.' He said it in jest, I'm sure, but it scared the hell out of me. That kind of kidding shows a total lack of political sense."
Weisengoff, however, does not speak for all the politicians in Baltimore. His perspective has been clouded by the fact that Lee this year led a movement to place a new prison in his south Baltimore district. Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and City Council President Walter S. Orlinsky - who agree on little else - have both stated that geography should not be an issue in the campaign, that Lee and Hoyer have done enough to show their support for Baltimore.
According to Henry Bain, a professor of policy sciences at the University of Maryland-Baltimore Country who is an expert on Maryland political history, the voting alliance between Baltimore and the Washington suburbs goes back to the 1930s.
It was during that decade that Montgomery began its transformation from a sparsely populated, rural country to the affluent, suburban-oriented jurisdiction that it is today.
"Before then," Bain said, "the cleavage in the state was the city of Baltimore against the rest of the state, which was predominantly rural and which considered Baltimore an evil place dominated by political machines. There were comparable machines in the rural counties, of course, but they were thought to be acceptable."
The political transformation in Montgomery was fostered by a number of factors. Bain thinks the tow most important were the growth of the federal government during the New Deal and the imposition of the Hatch Act, which prevented federal workers from holding public offices.
The growth of the federal work force infused Montgomery with a professional, administrative, managerial population. The Hatch Act prompted a strong influence by women in county politics. They picked up where their husbands, who worked for the government, couldn't be active," Bain said.
The result was a government dominated by citizens' groups, a population that would go for what is called good government. Montgomery, in one sense, peeled off from the rest of the state at that point. Its legislators in Annapolis were from that point on noticeably different than all the others.
"But although the political system in Baltimore was changing very little, there was from the 1940s on a bond between the city and Montgomery, and also Prince George's, which was undergoing the same changes as Montgomery at a slower rate.
"On most of the issues at the state legislature - economics, resources, taxes - the city and suburban folks tended to line up on one side, the rural areas and small towns on the other.
"The suburban Washington legislators were liberal in a philosophical sense and the city Democrats were liberal on the bread-and-butter issues, such as right-to-work laws," Bain said.
It was part of the traditional New Deal coalition that president Franklin D. Roosevelt had put together around the country. Although the coalition fell apart on specific issues, such as civil rights and Vietnam, it has held up in Maryland on most of the important state questions.
Blair Lee III, as a state senator from Montgomery, was one of the authors of the state's progressive income tax, a tax which was of most benefit to the longshoremen and steel-workers in Baltimore. In the last decade, when the Baltimore politicians needed support for a sales tax increase or for the Baltimore subway, they turned to the delegates and senators from prince George's and Montgomery for the crucial votes.
George Calcott, a political historian at the University of Maryland-College Park, said an important factor in any Baltimore v. Washington suburbs discussion, and one that is usually ignored, is the fact that Baltimore's suburbs are substantially different than Washington's.
"Strangely enough," Calcott said, "they have very little in common. The Baltimore suburbs tend to be dominated by a country club, conservative, businessman style, whereas Montgomery and Prince George's are dominated by a civil service, highly mobile, highly educated type. It seems to me that the Washington suburbs have much more in common with Baltimore City than Baltimore's suburbs do.
"That is where the Burch theme seems to fall apart. Still, the Lee-Hoyer alliance is rather significant. Maryland politics traditionally has involved five sections - Baltimore City, its suburbs, the Washington suburbs, the Eastern Shore and western Maryland.
"The method of gaining power has been for at least two of these sections to put together a slate and platform that would appeal to at least a third. In the past, every victorious slate has had to make peace with the Washington suburbs. Now, for the first time, the Washington suburbs are not the balance of power, but the power itself. They are reaching out, instead of being reached toward."