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Reports to contrary aside, Clinton won't skip Md. Rallies, 3 endorsements designed to show he wants to win contest here.


Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton fires up his presidential campaign in Maryland again tomorrow with three new endorsements and two old-style rallies -- all designed to show he hasn't downgraded Maryland in his national strategy.

Democratic Party sources said the Clinton campaign had all but decided to pull its candidate from Maryland several days ago to concentrate on the campaign in Georgia and, perhaps, to avoid another loss to Paul E. Tsongas, the former Massachusetts senator who beat him Tuesday in New Hampshire.

But tomorrow, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke will introduce Mr. Clinton and endorse him at a convention of Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD) at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Mr. Schmoke's backing could help the turnout among Baltimore's many black Democratic voters.

Later tomorrow, at a union rally, Mr. Clinton will be endorsed by Reps. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th, and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd.

Meanwhile, on the Republican primary scene, President Bush's representatives were making no attempt to deny their decision to bypass Maryland.

That plan could change, though, if the president's surprisingly strong challenger, Patrick J. Buchanan, decides to spend money and time here.

Mr. Bush will be at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on Monday for a Montgomery County GOP campaign kickoff. But there is no other scheduled appearance in Maryland before the March 3 primary and no plan to advertise on television.

The Clinton campaign spent yesterday denying reports it had reduced the candidate's scheduled appearances from six to one and slashed the campaign's television advertising budget for Maryland from $300,000 to $25,000.

"It's not true, and both of those numbers are inaccurate," said Craig Smith, a deputy national campaign manager in Little Rock, Ark. He would not disclose the actual advertising budget for Maryland, saying only that it was between the two quoted figures.

"We're not going to concede any state or declare victory in any state," said Jay Rouse, the Clinton campaign manager in Maryland. He said Mr. Clinton had never scheduled six appearances in the state.

He did acknowledge that constantly changing campaign demands and a special session of the Arkansas legislature were limiting his candidate's time.

One of Mr. Clinton's early backers here, Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, said he had urged Mr. Clinton during a phone call Wednesday night to maintain his drive toward a win in Maryland.

"I really stressed to him that he could win Maryland. He has a great organization here," the congressman said.

Mr. Tsongas' campaign manager in Maryland scoffed at the reported withdrawal by Mr. Clinton. "Maryland is a major battleground," said Pat Smith, a Bethesda lawyer. "How's he going to back off when he solicited all these elected official endorsements? We're treating it as a major encounter."

Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey's campaign manager, Councilman Martin O'Malley, said, "If it's true [that Mr. Clinton backs off here], it will have a demoralizing effect on the people who endorsed him. It's the price you pay for organizing your campaign on the backs of elected officials. They've all got better things to do if he's pulling out."

Mr. Clinton and the other four top Democratic candidates have been invited to a debate at the University of Maryland College Park March 1.

Nathan Landow, state party chairman, said he expected all the candidates to participate -- but Mr. Tsongas may be the only candidate who has committed. The Clinton and Kerrey campaigns said yesterday they had not made a decision. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's campaign did not return a phone call about his plans.

Mr. Landow said that in addition to six Maryland public television stations, a network of more than 300 public television stations across the country may carry the event.

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