While Maryland's Democrats are falling over each other in a grand scramble to the starting gates for this year's race to the governorship, the GOP is holding a party. But nobody's coming. The last time we counted, the longest list of regretters was for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate; it was an all-star cast that included former sports greats and the chicken king of the Free State. The only apparent candidates have been Democrats willing to switch and fight. Word has it now, for example, that White House liaison chief Linda Chavez, who changed parties last year, will answer the GOP call in the Senate race. But another GOP Great Democratic Hope, newly Republicanized Howard County Executive J. Hugh Nichols, dropped out of the governor's race Wednesday.

Mr. Nichols explained at that time that he didn't have the will or the wherewithal to get into a Republican primary contest before the general election. That was when he and other party officials believed that Dr. Aris T. Allen, a longtime Republican from Annapolis, would be entering the race. But then Thursday night, Dr. Allen said no. The party leaders had asked him several days before to step out in favor of Mr. Nichols -- and that was what he was doing. When reminded that Mr. Nichols was now out, Dr. Allen said, "I'm not sure he has dropped out of the race."

It is said (and what hasn't been by now?) that Mr. Nichols may just possibly be reconsidering his retreat. Or will he call on Dr. Allen to return? Will it be Alphonse, Gaston or -- if this keeps up -- Unopposed? Sure, the Democrats have a 3-to-1 edge in party registration in Maryland, and there is no proven vote- getter like retiring Sen. Mac Mathias standing expectantly in the wings. But the Maryland Republicans do constitute a political party, don't they? Are there no serious GOP takers?