For weeks they avoided each other, waiting for their easy primary races to end. Today, with the late night victory parties only hours over, Maryland's two candidates for governor -- Democratic incumbent Harry Hughes and Republican challenger Robert A. Pascal -- refocused, groggily pored over election returns and took a few swipes at each other in preparation for a harder fought general election.

Pascal, who spent the day at his campaign headquarters just a few miles from the statehouse that he hopes to claim in November, acknowledged that he was the underdog--as all the polls have shown -- but said he thinks he can win.

"I really believe there's room for a victory," said Pascal, casually attired in blue slacks, blue printed shirt and sunglasses. "The Democratic constituencies are there to be turned on." To begin the effort he criticized Hughes for living in the governor's mansion ("How can you talk about the poor and unemployed and live in that style . . . with servants?"), for taking too much time to agree to television debates, and for not doing enough on the issue of crime.

Hughes, appearing relaxed and confident in his statehouse office after a three-hour strategy session with his campaign staff, said he too feels confident of victory on Nov. 2 since he is going into the race against Pascal after winning the Democratic primary with nearly 67 percent of the vote.

"The vast majority of [Democrats] are going to support the Democratic candidate," he said. "We're going to get some Republican votes too." Hughes said he expects Pascal to take shots at him but is not particularly concerned.

"He's been taking his shots for two years. We'll certainly respond as we have in the past and we'll respond with the truth and the facts," he said. Of Pascal's comment about the mansion, Hughes replied, "You might inform him that the constitution of Maryland requires him [the governor] to live in Annapolis." Asked if planned not to live in the mansion, Pascal said it was "too soon" to decide.

Preliminary digs aside, the day was a quiet one for the two candidates. After attending a groundbreaking ceremony in his role as county executive, candidate Pascal spent most of the day calling supporters for more money, granting interviews, and preparing statements for a press conference Thursday that will focus on Hughes' "failures with the prisons." Staffers were also putting together a list of "Hughes quotes and misquotes on prisons" and another entitled, "More Hughes misstatements."

Pascal also planned to call Baltimore State Sen. Harry J. McGuirk, one of those vanquished by Hughes in the primary. Pascal's general election strategy requires him to win the support of McGuirk voters.

His staffers also were calling television stations in Baltimore and Washington, asking them to arrange debates. Pascal said he must cut into Hughes' popularity in the Washington suburbs, which gave Hughes overwhelming support in Tuesday's primary.

"To be frank, people in the Washington suburbs do not know me, do not know where I come from, what I've done," the Republican executive said.

Pascal, more than Hughes, has had a difficult time raising money for television advertising. He ran only a few days of ads this summer in the Baltimore area, but is hoping to raise $400,000 during the seven-week campaign.

Hughes, with wider connections in the state's financial community after four years as governor, is hoping to raise $1 million by the end of the campaign. He has already raised -- and spent most of -- about $600,000, some of which went for television advertisments that ran last week in Washington and Baltimore and will likely be reused.

All morning Hughes, his top campaign aides, and a representative of his New York consulting firm went over the preliminary results to see if there were any areas of the state that could prove troublesome in November. The group also agreed that the governor's strategy in the campaign would continue to be one of emphasizing his record and focusing on accomplishments in areas of crime, drunk driving and economic development.

The governor also indicated that the Reagan administration will become part of this gubernatorial race, with the Hughes campaign associating Pascal with Reagan cutbacks, inflation and unemployment.

"You have to stand up and be counted on these issues," Hughes said.

Pascal, aware that heavily Democratic Maryland voted against Reagan in 1980, has attempted to distance himself from the Reagan administration. For instance, he will not be campaigning with GOP senatorial candidate Lawrence Hogan, who is running on the Reagan platform.

By midafternoon, Hughes had received calls from legislators and well-wishers, including one primary opponent, Ocean City Mayor Harry W. Kelley, but still had heard nothing from McGuirk, his main opponent in Tuesday's primary. Hughes said he had been waiting for McGuirk's call -- "It's sort of normal for it to work that way" -- but having heard nothing he would initiate contact.

McGuirk, who spent the day at home and at his real estate office, said he still has not decided whether to endorse Hughes, but he said for sure he would not back Pascal. "A lot of my supporters are very angry and saying things like they're going to support Pascal but in a couple weeks they'll calm down, realize they have relatives who would spin in their graves if they voted for the Republican and they'll vote for the Democrat."

McGuirk said he will meet with Hughes next week to discuss the general election.