O'Malley lead over Ehrlich dwindles in new poll
The latest evidence that Maryland's two leading candidates are locked in a tight race for governor: A new poll has Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) up by just 3 percentage points over former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
O'Malley is the choice of 45 percent of likely voters, while 42 percent prefer Ehrlich and 8 percent are undecided, according to the poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies.
The good news for O'Malley is that he is still faring better than many Democratic incumbents in what is shaping up as a tough election year for the party nationally. The bad news: Even in heavily Democratic Maryland, voters have lurched in Ehrlich's direction since January, when Gonzales last polled. O'Malley held a 9 percentage point lead over Ehrlich in that survey.
In an analysis accompanying the new poll, Gonzales declares the race "really close" and concludes: "It's clear that either candidate could win in November." Other recent polls --- including one by The Post in May -- have also shown a competitive race.
Gonzales identifies keys for both candidates. Ehrlich must improve his performance among Democrats to win, while O'Malley could lose if the economy continues to be such a dominant factor the race.
The poll highlights several divides in Maryland politics. O'Malley holds commanding leads in the Washington suburbs and in Baltimore; Ehrlich is stronger in the Baltimore suburbs, Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.
A gender gap also persists between O'Malley and Ehrlich. Among women, O'Malley leads, 49 percent to 37 percent. Among men, Ehrlich leads, 48 percent to 40 percent.
One other noteworthy finding: While the race has grown tighter, the percentage of those approving of the way O'Malley is handing is job has actually increased slightly, from 46 percent in January to 48 percent in July.
And now for the candidate spin.
This, from O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese: The Gonzales poll "confirms that Bob Ehrlich is stuck in the low 40s because people remember his record as the biggest spender in Maryland history and that Marylanders approve of the job Governor O'Malley is doing to move Maryland forward despite the national recession."
And this, from Ehrlich communications director Henry Fawell: "Like every survey published in the past fifty days, the poll shows Marylanders are embracing Bob Ehrlich's positive message of more jobs, lower taxes and less spending. It also shows that Governor O'Malley's negative campaigning has proven to be a major tactical mistake. We expect this race to remain very close."
Meanwhile, 59 percent of likely Maryland voters approve of the job Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is doing, Gonzales found. That's down 5 percentage points since January and shows that "even the popular Mikulski is feeling the effects of the anti-incumbent mood of the electorate," Gonzales said.
Mikulski, who is widely expected to win a fifth term this fall, faces 17 other candidates, none of them well known.
President Obama's numbers have also taken a tumble in Maryland, according to the poll, which found 51 percent approving of his job performance. That's down five points from January as well.
The Gonzales poll of 807 likely voters was conducted July 13 to 21 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
July 27, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections , John Wagner
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