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Party's likely nominee leaves Schaefer lukewarm, looking to local contests


ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Maryland's No. 1 Democrat, doesn't much like his party's apparent presidential nominee and might not attend its convention this July in New York.

DTC "I'll work for the Democratic candidates for Congress, the local Democrats," Mr. Schaefer said.

But what about the party's presidential candidate?

"I don't know who's running yet," he said, quickly adding, "Now that's a way of getting out of it." He said he thought the nominee could still be someone other than Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

If the nominee were Mr. Clinton,was it possible the governor would support President Bush?

"I am a Democrat," Mr. Schaefer said. "But I happen to like the president. He's good. When you look at some of the candidates in the field, he's good."

Mr. Schaefer said he likes the Arkansas governor's education program but has problems with other issues. He said he remains far more impressed with former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas and his ideas on manufacturing, the environment and health care.

The governor said he also had problems with the candidacy of Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who may enter the race as an independent. Mr. Schaefer said he didn't think Mr. Perot would be able to handle the political aspects of the job.

"He couldn't just walk over to the Congress and fire 'em," said the governor, who knows something about the difficulties of getting along with legislators.

As for why so many people appear to be turning away from the major party candidates to a relative unknown, Mr. Schaefer said: "I don't think they're thinking."

The governor said he would be inclined to stay at his desk in Annapolis if his party's presidential nominee has been chosen in advance, if the vice presidential running mate has been chosen -- and if there is no real business to be done.

Should Mr. Clinton stumble and the convention were needed to select an alternative, Mr. Schaefer said he would be there. Or if Mr. Tsongas wanted his support for vice president, he'd be inclined to go.

As he did in 1988, when he was only lukewarm in supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Mr. Schaefer will work for the party's nominee in the general election, aides said. The governor's effort for Mr. Dukakis was not noticeably enthusiastic, however.

The possibility of Mr. Schaefer's absence at the convention was troubling to Maryland's Democratic Party chairman, Nathan Landow.

"I hope he comes. It's not the best thing for the party if he doesn't," Mr. Landow said. "I hope he goes to New York and enjoys himself with his friends and fellow Democrats throughout the country. We need him and we want him very badly to attend."

But Mr. Landow might well be sympathetic to the governor in regard to Mr. Clinton. Mr. Landow, too, supported Mr. Tsongas, and reportedly has been among those in the party who would turn to someone else if an opportunity arose.

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