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They've Got Your Number

If your phone is ringing, chances are it's a politician. Or his wife. Or another popular elected official. Or a national figure. Or an actor.

The live and computerized calls coming to telephones across Maryland mark the last ditch effort to sway voters to a candidate and get them out to the polls for tomorrow's party primaries.

In Maryland's U.S. Senate race, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin's campaign launched what insiders said was a massive get-out-the-vote effort that by tomorrow will have meant more than 250,000 live volunteer-to-voter calls and roughly 75,000 targeted visits to potential voters' front doorsteps.

His leading opponent in the Democratic primary, former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, is continuing phone banking efforts begun weeks ago and will deploy volunteers to knock on doors on primary day, his campaign said.

Mfume is also relying heavily on mobilizing black churchgoers. His campaign reported major literature drops yesterday at "mega-churches" in Baltimore and the heavily democratic Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- part of an effort to put more than 60,000 Mfume brochures in the hands of potential voters over the weekend.

Democrats up and down the ballot in Maryland have had to work harder to target voters than they expected when this year's race began.

Other campaigns had been counting on on a competitive gubernatorial primary between Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to swell the ranks of interested voters tomorrow. But Duncan's exit from the contest in June forced campaigns to ramp up their own efforts.

In the Senate race, Mfume spent yesterday making multiple appearances at churches in the Baltimore region, two dozen of his volunteers plotted strategy for boosting turnout in Montgomery County.

Cardin kept a busy schedule over the weekend, barely stopping on Saturday to smell the sizzling ribs in supporter Robert Horton's Baltimore front yard before stepping on the porch, and picking up the microphone.

"With your help I will be Maryland's next United States Senator,"Cardin told the 50 people gathered in beach chairs and at picnic tables. Moments after he finished his remarks, he went barreling down I-95 to the next of six rallies over two days.

"He's doing exactly what he needs to," said state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-Baltimore), who attended the event in Horton's rambling front yard. "These folks are ready to come out for him on Election Day."

Matthew Mosk and John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  September 11, 2006; 9:27 AM ET
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