Walter F. Mondale, in a visit that climaxed the final effort by Maryland Democrats to overcome President Reagan's perceived lead among state voters, drew a large and boisterous crowd to this city's downtown showpiece today and hailed Baltimore's revitalization as an example of a Democratic administration's commitment to rebuild the nation's cities.
The Democratic presidential candidate, speaking with the glittering Inner Harbor as a backdrop, told a crowd of about 8,000 people that the kind of urban face lift that has transformed "a city going downhill" into "a city on the move" can only be done in partnership with the federal government, a reference to help provided by President Carter.
Mondale reminded the audience that on the day after Reagan visited the same harbor three weeks ago and pledged support for dredging the channel, his administration threatened to veto a spending measure if it contained the harbor-dredging funds.
"When it comes to American cities, Mr. Reagan and his crowd give hypocrisy a bad name," Mondale said.
With his appearance here, which was sandwiched between stops in Louisville and Buffalo, Mondale resumed a final swing through large, critical states of the industrial Northeast and Midwest that began Tuesday in Minnesota and Illinois.
By Saturday, Mondale will have completed nearly a dozen campaign appearances including New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Mondale's appearance here -- his first during the general election campaign -- followed by two days a visit by Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro. Other prominent Democrats are also campaigning in Maryland this week in an effort to overcome Reagan's persistent lead in the polls.
Despite an almost 3-to-1 Democratic voter registration edge, Reagan has held onto a lead of about 10 points in Maryland.
The party apparatus went to some lengths to generate a sizable crowd for Mondale, who spoke at dusk under a half moon in the shadow of the USS Constellation.
For the past 24 hours, radio listeners in Baltimore heard 30-second spots advertising the rally, and local politicians were urged to ensure a good turnout.
As he has done repeatedly in recent days, Mondale drew an ebullient crowd that frequently interrupted his 25-minute speech with cries of "We Want Fritz" and "One more week," the latter a derisive taunt in response to the Republican battle cry of "Four more years."
Mondale was enthusiastically introduced by Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer, who has been quietly criticized in some quarters for not taking a more active role on behalf of the national Democratic ticket.
"You can look around here and you can see many programs that Mr. Mondale is responsible for when he was vice president," said Schaefer.
"We couldn't have built the Inner Harbor without federal funds."
However, the decision to hold today's Mondale rally at Harborplace had at least a temporarily dampening effect on the enthusiasm of some leaders of this city's black community, a voting bloc whose turnout on Nov. 6 could well decide who wins Maryland's 10 electoral votes.
While Harborplace is regarded as the heart of Baltimore's urban renaissance, it is a different kind of symbol to some Baltimore blacks who see in the gleaming shopping arcades not so much a city on the move as a city administration that they feel has ignored the educational and economic needs of the poor in favor of high-profile downtown development.
Members of Baltimore's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a politically active and influential group of black ministers, had urged officials in the Maryland Mondale-Ferraro campaign to hold the rally elsewhere, preferably in a black neighborhood.
Though the alliance did not boycott the Mondale event, the group's president, the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, said today that "the alliance will not be participating . . . . We are not encouraging people to go and not discouraging them. We are supporting Mondale, but not the location."
Miles called the Inner Harbor shopping plaza "anathema to the black community. It symbolizes all the injustices the local administration of Schaefer has perpetrated on the black community."
The crowd that greeted Mondale today was predominantly white, though in what appeared to be a conscious attempt to include the black community, two of the warm-up speakers preceding the Democratic candidate were local blacks.
Baltimore, a city with a majority black population, produced a strong enough Democratic vote in 1980 to carry the state for Carter-Mondale, producing a plurality of about 135,000 votes.
Miles said today he senses an awakening of interest in Mondale in the black community within the past week, spurred in part by Ferraro's visit to a black church on Monday.
Mondale's address here, though it varied little from his standard stump speech, was spiced with a holiday message: "Today is Halloween. Stop and think what a Republican Halloween would be like. When they come to your door and ask 'trick or treat' they're talking about your tax package. It will be treats for the wealthy corporations and tricks for everyone else."
Earlier today, on arrival at the Baltimore airport, Mondale angrily rebutted an assertion by President Reagan published today that Ferraro had been chosen as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate based on her gender.
"She is far better prepared for her position that Mr. Reagan was when he was elected president ," Mondale told reporters.
After leaving Baltimore, Mondale campaigned tonight before an enthusiastic audience of 6,000 in Buffalo, N.Y.