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Target: Washington

On Wednesday, there'll be what's called a "Capitol Hill happy hour" at a bar in Washington, D.C. Cocktail parties are hardly unusual, of course, in a city where lobbyists ply their trade over drinks, and government staffers mix after work. In fact, there have been about 25 of these special happy hours in neighborhoods all over Washington since 2002.

Special, did we say? So what's so special about them?

The parties are sponsored by a nonprofit organization called "Live Baltimore Home Center." It's supported by business and city officials in "Charm City," as Maryland's largest city likes to call itself. "Live Baltimore" is promoting city living in that historic seaport to help stem a decline in its middle-class taxpayer base.

Wednesday's party is a brash attempt — right in the belly of Baltimore's biggest urban competitor — to steal good people from Washington, D.C., by convincing them to move to Baltimore, just 65 kilometers up the interstate highway.

"It's Baltimore over D.C. in a Landslide," says one promotional message. Wednesday's party-goers will be told, for instance, that they can buy a great house that would cost half a million dollars in Washington for 60 percent less in Baltimore.

It's hard to quantify whether the campaign is working. But a 2006 Washington Post story noted that of those who relocate away from Washington, 40 percent pick Baltimore. And if you ever go to Charm City's Penn Station between 6:00 and 8:00 on a weekday morning, you'll bump into hundreds of Baltimoreans who are boarding commuter trains for a pleasant 40-minute ride to their jobs . . . in Washington.