PATRICK L. McDONOUGH, the conservative Republican talk-show commentator and occasional candidate for public office, is an awfully optimistic kind of a guy.
Spurred on by his near-win last year in a race for Baltimore County register of wills, the one-time Democrat is going after Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's 3rd District congressional seat.
Never mind that Mr. Cardin has won handily since he first was elected to Congress in 1986, taking at least 70 percent of the vote against each of the Republican challengers. Forget that he has no trouble raising money.
Mr. McDonough, who is running for the Republican nomination in the March primary, believes a 1996 GOP win in Maryland's 3rd District is possible. "We are building and bulking up to become an 800-pound gorilla," said Mr. McDonough, who actually has lost 35 pounds in the past few months.
"We've touched all the bases. We're going to work hard to be a serious candidate," he said. "The passion's there, the energy's there, and I think the viability's there."
Mr. McDonough, who was a member of the House of Delegates when Mr. Cardin was House speaker, believes he can raise the money needed to win. "We're not going to match Ben Cardin dollar for dollar, but I am convinced we'll make -- and surpass -- $300,000," he said.
He got off to a "good start" for the party's nomination last week with a $40-a-head fund-raiser in Perry Hall, not far from his home. And he has garnered endorsements from a horde of elected officials and GOP activists.
Mr. McDonough, a 52-year-old Fells Point native, is in the process of launching a quarterly conservative public affairs journal, Maryland Citizen, and appears as a weekly guest on WCBM's "Conference Call."
He is hoping to ride what he believes will be a continued anti-incumbent tide to Capitol Hill in 1996 and has assailed Mr. Cardin as "a typical career politician," citing the congressman's 28-year tenure as an elected official in Annapolis and Washington.
L Of course, Mr. McDonough is no stranger to politics himself.
In 1978, while still a Democrat -- and an outsider -- he won a seat in the House of Delegates after defeating the East Baltimore political machinery by 52 votes in the primary.
The next year, he ran for mayor against William Donald Schaefer (then in his second term at City Hall) and placed second in the primary against Hizzoner, losing by 55,794 votes.
Though he did not change his party affiliation until 1987, Mr. McDonough endorsed Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. Two years later, he lost his re-election bid after a redistricting squeeze pitted him against other incumbent East Baltimore legislators.
In 1988, when it appeared that no one in the GOP was going to weigh in against U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Mr. McDonough entered the race -- only to lose what eventually became a nine-way Republican primary.
In 1990, he was back at it. This time, he managed the campaign of Republican Roger B. Hayden, who scored a surprise win for Baltimore County executive. He was rewarded with a position of "special assistant" to the county executive, but left a year and a half later because of "philosophical differences," he said.
Last year, Mr. McDonough ran against Peter J. Basilone, the 20-year incumbent Baltimore County register of wills, and captured 49 percent of the vote -- much of it in precincts that have been strongholds of Mr. Cardin.
Mr. Cardin, who will be 52 this week, is a five-term congressman whose district includes parts of Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties. He declined to comment on the prospect of a race against Mr. McDonough 13 months from now.
"It's pretty far off till next November," Mr. Cardin said. "I think until he has the nomination, I'm not prepared to talk about the election."
Speaker's golf tourney for charity a big draw
A couple hundred legislators, lobbyists, bureaucrats and other interested parties descended on Cumberland on Sunday and yesterday for a schmooze fest at the House speaker's annual golf tournament for charity.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., the Allegany County Democrat, was host at the sold-out benefit at Cumberland Country Club. Proceeds went to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence; the Dapper Dan Club, which sponsors Little League baseball; and Archway Station, an agency that works with the mentally handicapped.