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At Long Last....Poll Numbers

Maryland's two Democrats running for governor are peddling very different pictures of how competitive the primary is heading into its final three months. Depending on whom you believe, the race is now either in single digits -- or has not tightened at all.

Aides to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley are touting the results of a new internal poll that shows the mayor leading Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan by 14 percentage points -- the same margin as in April.

The poll, conducted for O'Malley by GarinHartYang Research Group, showed O'Malley leading Duncan statewide, 48 percent to 34 percent, with 18 percent undecided. The poll of 502 likely Democratic voters was conducted June 5 to 7 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In a memo to the campaign, the polling firm suggested that Duncan's month-long television advertising campaign in the Baltimore market has had no significant impact on the race. "Our findings are extremely encouraging for the O'Malley campaign," the memo says.

That assessment was summarily dismissed by Duncan campaign manager, Scott Arceneaux, however.

"These numbers are as phony as the mayor's crime statistics," Arceneaux said in an interviewing, alluding to questions Duncan and others have raised about Baltimore's sharp drop in violent crime under O'Malley. "They're contrary to everything else we're hearing out in the political community."

That was the message was presented by Arceneaux in a on-line fundraising solicitation sent out last week. In the solicitation, he said "word on the street" was that Duncan had "surged to within 5 points" of O'Malley and that Duncan's TV ads were a key reason for that.

The letter made no mention of any specific polls showing that. Asked for evidence, Arceneaux said that "a number of campaigns" for other statewide offices had shared numbers with Duncan's camp. "I'm not going to out anybody," Arceneaux said.

The Washington Post is aware of at least one. A poll conducted last month for Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's re-election campaign included a question about the primary for governor that showed a 6 percentage point margin for O'Malley.

That poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, showed the mayor up over Duncan, 42 percent to 36 percent, with 22 percent undecided. The poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted May 15 to 17, had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

A copy of that poll was provided to The Post by a Schaefer ally who is not employed by his campaign.

In March, the Duncan camp was seeking to discredit another Mason-Dixon poll that showed a relatively tight race in Montgomery County. That poll was conducted for opponents of the intercounty connector and included questions about the controversial road project that Duncan aides said could have skewed the results. Pollsters said they asked the governor's race questions first.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 11, 2006; 6:49 AM ET
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