Patrick J. Buchanan's anti-free-trade, anti-Washington message may not play as well in Maryland as it did in New Hampshire, where two days ago the feisty TV commentator won the nation's first Republican presidential primary.
That's the assessment of Maryland Republicans who see Mr. Buchanan as too extreme and divisive to win the primary here March 5 or to gain the party's nomination in August. Also, state GOP leaders say, Maryland Republicans are more moderate than their New Hampshire counterparts.
Joyce Lyons Terhes, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, said yesterday that she expects the second- and third-place finishers in New Hampshire -- Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander -- to slug it out in Maryland's primary.
And Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate familiar with the state's political landscape, said that she believes Mr. Dole will prevail in Maryland.
Mrs. Sauerbrey headed the state campaign of Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who quit the race after sinking to fifth in the Iowa caucuses. She said yesterday that she had not decided which candidate to endorse, or even whether to endorse one. None overly appeals to her, she said.
But she thinks Mr. Dole will win here because he has the only remaining old-fashioned, grass-roots organization. And, she said, many of her cohorts who supported Mr. Gramm are leaning toward Mr. Dole.
So where does that leave Mr. Buchanan, the upset winner in New Hampshire?
In Maryland's 1992 Republican presidential primary, in a two-man race with George Bush, Mr. Buchanan received 30 percent of the vote. If Mr. Dole and Mr. Alexander, and perhaps even the multimillionaire publisher Steve Forbes, split the moderate vote here, can't Mr. Buchanan win with that same, devoted 30 percent?
That's the kind of thinking Michael Craig likes. A Republican activist from Carroll County, Mr. Craig is state chairman of the Buchanan campaign. But, he said, why stop at 30 percent?
"This movement's going to go on with or without them," he said of the state's political establishment. "I'd hate for them to be left behind."
Mr. Craig spoke yesterday with a weary voice. He had just arrived home after driving all night from New Hampshire, where he'd spent two frantic days working the phones and polls for Mr. Buchanan.
"What impressed me the most was that Pat's backers up there weren't religious, extreme fanatics," Mr. Craig said. "They were everyday people concerned about their own financial situation as well as moral issues."
Mr. Dole plans to spend Sunday, March 3, in Maryland, two days before the primary, said Tony Caligiuri, executive director of Mr. Dole's Maryland campaign. Mr. Dole's schedule has not been finalized.
Robin Dole, the candidate's daughter, will campaign in the state tomorrow.
The Dole camp expects the warhorse senator to carry Maryland.
"I think Maryland Republicans are a lot more mainstream, more moderate than New Hampshire Republicans," Mr. Caligiuri said. "The candidate who will appeal to them the most will be Bob Dole."