Tomorrow night, the political parties will party.
When the polls close, after all, what's left to do but wait for the returns with fellow supporters of your candidate?
The Democrats' party platform: They're in favor of the Omni International Hotel because it's union and downtown.
The Republicans': They're for the traditional values of the 4H Building at the Timonium Fairgrounds and a menu of barbecue, hot dogs and sandwiches.
The Perot supporters: Nothing planned right now. But stay tuned.
"People are psyched. People sense victory. I've gone from youth to middle-age with lousy Republicans controlling the federal government, and we finally have a shot this year at turning that around," said Joe Marcus, a Clinton-Gore volunteer in Baltimore who is ready -- about 12 years' worth of ready -- to celebrate a Democratic return to the White House. "There's a lot of pent-up excitement."
Mr. Marcus, an adult education teacher in real life, recalls not being in much of a party mood four years ago -- instead, he stayed home to watch the election returns. This year, he'll join the other revelers at the Omni.
The Republicans, however, aren't conceding -- the election or the party scene.
David Blumberg, Republican Party chairman in Baltimore, plans to spend election night party-hopping between the Rep. Helen Delich Bentley/George Bush-Dan Quayle Party at the fairgrounds and Senate aspirant Alan Keyes' fete at the Quality Inn in downtown Baltimore. And he expects his fellow Republicans to party as hard as their Democratic counterparts.
"Being a Republican in Baltimore City, since we hardly ever win anyway, I have a permanent party face I can put on no matter what," Mr. Blumberg said. "We usually have more people at the parties than work the polls -- we have a lot of people who work the polls the way Rosie Ruiz ran the marathon."
Mr. Blumberg offers this partisan assessment of how the political parties differ in their party-styles: "We'd have Old Granddad; they'd have Chardonnay. We wouldn't have any of that hot brie with the nuts on top. We're more likely to have, not like Spam or anything, but we're more likely to have hot dogs and wienies."
Kurt Frevel of Atlantic Caterers confirmed there will be hot dogs at the Republican party tomorrow night. While Mr. Frevel has done several Republican parties in the past, he says he'll cater to either party.
"I enjoy working them. It's a celebration. The people who have worked on the campaigns, most of them have worked all day on the polls, they come in, and they're cold and a little tired, but they're also really excited," Mr. Frevel said.
And, of course, everybody loves a winner -- and the winner's party.
"Two years ago, when [Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden] started winning later in the night, more people started coming in," Mr. Frevel said.
Which is why both Democrats and Republicans are expecting big crowds tomorrow night -- in the high hundreds, at least. Both sides expect to win: They won't both win the presidency, of course, but with re-elections of both Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Representative Bentley predicted, each locale should have at least one victorious candidate somewhere in the crowd.
"I've got a good record," said Omni catering manager Peggy Trapp, noting that she did Gov. William Donald Schaefer's victory party two years ago. "And if they elect the first Democratic president in 12 years, Maryland and the city of Baltimore will just go wild."
While Mayor Kurt Schmoke will do his election night partying in Little Rock with the Clintons, other Democrats like Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Congressmen Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume are expected to make appearances of varying lengths at the Omni.
The state's top Democratic official, however, apparently plans to stay home. Governor Schaefer, who has jumped ship and endorsed President Bush, has no plans to go out on election night, a spokeswoman said last week.
As for the defiantly seat-of-the-pants Ross Perot campaign, its election night plans are characteristically up in the air.
"We have given so little thought to that, we're so busy with other things," said Joan Vinson, who heads the statewide Perot effort from an Annapolis base. "We haven't really planned anything, except to be here in the campaign office, I guess."
For the Democrats and Republicans, however, organizing election night parties takes nearly as long as the campaign that will determine whether they have anything to celebrate.
Partygoers obviously want to watch election returns come in, so on top of food and drink, renting television sets is among the first priorities, said Tom O'Neill, Mrs. Bentley's campaign director and organizer of the fairgrounds party. And, just as important, is accommodating the TV crews that broadcast live from the scene.
"There are a lot of elements we have to pull together to make it work," said Ms. Trapp of the Omni. "It's for the campaign workers, but it's also for the viewing public as well, so we have to get the flow right -- where the bandstand will be, where the candidates' podium will be, where the right place is to put the media."
All of which takes a long time to work out.
"Once the primary was over . . . you had to start moving ahead with election night events," said John Steele, spokesman for the Mikulski campaign. "That you're planning that far ahead doesn't mean you're being cocky. You certainly hope your candidate will win -- that's why you're with them in the first place. But because you're working with so many different factors, you have to start early."
"You just try to make everything easy for everyone to enjoy the evening," said Mr. O'Neill. "People come out to share the experience, trade a few stories. It's like being in a fraternity or club -- it's that kind of camaraderie."