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Schaefer's Woman Problem

It should come as a surprise to no one, but Comptroller William Donald Schaefer has turned off a sizeable percentage of Maryland's women voters. And the long-time pol is now more popular with Republicans than his fellow Democrats, according to the results of a new poll by The Washington Post.

The poll contained just one question about Schaefer, asking 902 registered voters whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the comptroller. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percent. Overall, 50 percent voiced a favorable view of Schaefer, while 34 said they had an unfavorable view.

Among women, 43 percent favor Schaefer, while 41 percent do not. The former governor and Baltimore mayor, who has been a close ally of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., also performs better with Republicans (53 percent have a favorable impression) than Democrats (49 percent).

A campaign aide to Schaefer, 84, said yesterday that he believes the numbers will improve as the comptroller's campaign kicks into gear.

"Recognizing that he's been in public office for a long time, you have to expect you'll get people with a wide variety of opinions," said Laslo Boyd, a senior consultant to Schaefer's reelection campaign. "Obviously he'd like to do well with all groups, but as we get into the campaign, I'm confident those numbers will pick up."

Two Democrats are challenging Schaefer in this year's primary. Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery) called the numbers "ominous" and said he is not surprised that Republicans like Schaefer. Franchot has run on the notion that he is the only "real Democrat" in the race.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) said she is encouraged that women may be ready to look elsewhere, since she is the only woman in the race -- and currently the only woman seeking statewide office.

She said she believes Schaefer lost the confidence of some women voters after an incident in February when he ogled a young staff member of the governor during a public meeting, and asked her to "walk again" so he could get another look at her backside.

Matthew Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 28, 2006; 6:29 AM ET
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My, how times change! I remember how much the GOP hated Willie Don in his Guv days, his unfunded opponent actually pulled 41% in the second election in 1990.

Talk radio mavens attacked, Les Kinsolving had his C.O.G. program in which drivers were asked to clock the Guv's motorcade and call in if he was exceeded the state's then-55 MPH speed limit.

Then he left office for a time and spent it regularly attacking every Dem who dared to replace him as a party leader-O'Malley's just the latest. Now the GOP grovels at his feet.

Posted by: howie | June 28, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Fifty percent rate him favorably? Follow up questions would be:

How many of these fifty percent read the newspaper or watch tv news?
How many are likely to vote?
What share of likely democratic primary voters view him favorably?

It doesn't matter if republicans love him if he can't get through the democratic primary.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The article is exactly the reason the Governor talked Janet Owens into entering the race. Knowing she will draw the womens votes and split the anti Schaefer vote between her and Franchot. It's the only way Schaefer can win the primary. Franchot on the Board of Public Works would be Ehrlich's worst nightmare, but he won't have to worry about that since he will not be on the board himself.

Posted by: LE | June 28, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

When I read about the ogling incident, I was tempted to dismiss Schaefer as a relic of a era when men could freely overstep women's personal boundaries, particularly in the workplace. Thankfully, that behavior is no longer acceptable to most people.

But let's not forget Schaefer's long reputation as a gooneybird. He's been rude, crude and lewd to many people, not just gubernatorial aides. Remember his famous remark about the Eastern Shore more than a decade ago?

I suspect his disapproval numbers would be higher if it weren't for his long history in politics, and if it weren't for the fact that Maryland voters have become somewhat numb to Schaefer's antics.

Posted by: Tonio | June 30, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Oops, I mean "an era."

Posted by: Tonio | June 30, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

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