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Never mind - it'll be McCain

Senate President Mike Miller is staying neutral in the Democratic presidential primary, but not for lack of arm-twisting by the Clinton and Obama camps.

"The Obama people just called me about an hour ago," Miller said one afternoon this week. "'We'll have the senator call you.'

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"I said, 'That's all right. She already called me.' They said, 'No, we mean Senator Obama.'"

Miller calls himself a "close personal friend" of Hillary and Bill Clinton. He's also "amazed and thrilled by how [Barack Obama] has captured the youth." Miller says he'll root for whichever one wins the nomination.

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But that doesn't mean the devout Dem is actually predicting success for his party's nominee. Miller thinks John McCain will prevail not only in the primary, but in the general election.

"Hillary Clinton -- very dear friend of mine -- 46 percent of the country is prepared to vote against her," Miller said before ticking off what he sees as McCain's positives: "Six years in a prisoner of war camp, moderate on immigration, courageous on Social Security and he's got the Rush Limbaughs of the world campaigning against him."

All music to the ears of former Del. Don Murphy, McCain's Maryland campaign coordinator, who chatted with Miller after an Arbutus Roundtable lunch this week. Murphy has been doing advance work for the Arizona senator around the country, which he said sounds more glamorous than it is.

"Sometimes my job is to make sure all the power strips have power," Murphy said. He's also been entrusted with staking out parking spots for the Straight Talk Express. (Former Del. Carmen Amedori has been with the McCain campaign, too. Among her duties: ushering Cindy McCain through crowds without hurting the aspiring first lady's bum knee.)

All fun when your team finally starts winning.

"For so long we were on the Island of Misfit Toys," Murphy said. "And now it's good to be loved."

They dubbed him Sir Joseph of Arbutus

Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. has been chosen for the state's highest court, but that professional honor surely pales next to this one: With a touch of a sword to his shoulder this week, he became an honorary knight of the Arbutus Roundtable.

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Murphy was knighted in the presence of former Gov. Marvin Mandel, Senate President Miller and other dignitaries over lunch Wednesday in the basement banquet space at Paul's Restaurant.

Only two other Marylanders have been made honorary members of the political gab group: William Donald Schaefer and Bob Ehrlich.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Robert Dugan wielded the sword, and thanked Murphy for introducing him to his wife, Molly, in 1974.

Susan M. Souder, a Baltimore County Circuit judge and forensic Doubting Thomas, presented Murphy with a bottle of wine. Rountabler Arthur Frank said the bottle had Souder's fingerprints all over it.

Surely The Sun couldn't be wrong

Wayne Norman, just sworn in this month as a state delegate, is so new to the job that he hasn't yet memorized his State House phone number. But constituents and colleagues are already dialing it -- to ask why he's chucking the job.

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"House of Delegates seat is open," ran the headline on a brief news item in Sunday's Sun about a vacancy created by Norman's resignation.

Norman did resign from something, but the headline had it wrong. He just gave up his spot on the GOP Central Committee of Harford County.

"People are saying, 'How come you didn't like it? You've only been there 10 days,'" Norman told me. "Everybody's thinking I'm dead or ran away from the job, which I have not done. In fact, I'm very much enjoying it."

Crime wave reaches the vegetable counter

Baltimore crime got more national attention this week, this time in a way that made the place sound like Mayberry.

In the headlines portion of The Tonight Show, Jay Leno picked up on the theft of a tomato, which The Sun's Dick Irwin dutifully reported in his Police Blotter back in October. The tomato was valued at $3.

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"How do they get three bucks for a tomato?" Leno asked. "Good luck selling that tomato on the street for three bucks. You know what the street value of that tomato is? Maybe 10 cents. If you try to pawn that tomato, it's nowhere near [$3]."

Connect the dots

McCormick wants to make sure home cooks aren't using spices past their prime, presumably so it can sell more cardamom, saffron and the like after the old stuff gets tossed. So the company offers freshness-testing tips on its Web site. "If it's from Baltimore, it's at least 15 years old," it says. Same thing if it's in a tin (unless, for some reason, the spice in question is black pepper). ... Media bistro.com's "fishbowl DC" noted how "dozens of reporters" were turned away from Senator Obama's appearance at American University's arena the other day. "They were told it was overcrowded and the fire marshal was not letting anyone else in, but VIPs were still ushered in." Who got the royal treatment? "As reporters waited, some of them for hours, VIPs like MD state comptroller Peter Franchot were whisked in."


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