First Click, Maryland:
Will O'Malley fare better than Fenty?
Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010:
A hyper-polarized political environment that elsewhere has propelled Tea Partiers to within striking distance of winning office and produced Republican career comebacks appears in Maryland to be working against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., according to a new Washington Post poll.
The results stand out against a national backdrop of Republicans both new and old who seem to be gaining momentum. So why is the election shaping up so much better for O'Malley and the Democrats in Maryland?
On one level, it's a head-scratcher. In the District this month, voters ousted incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) even though they felt he had accomplished a lot and that under his leadership the city was doing better.
In Maryland, more voters than ever before think things in the state have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track (49 percent). And more Marylanders than ever before think the state's economy is not doing well or is in downright poor condition (59 percent).
Yet, O'Malley is more popular than he has ever been in a Post poll, and he has opened a significant lead over Ehrlich. Some 52 percent of Marylanders most likely to vote now support O'Malley, to 41 percent who back Ehrlich.
Step back from that close-up and somewhat confounding comparison to the District, and the broader fundamentals benefiting O'Malley in Maryland make a lot more sense.
Whereas in other states, it's often a combination of energized Republicans and independents who seem to be are fueling Tea Party insurgents -- and even giving once ousted Republican governors a good chance at comebacks - in Maryland there are simply not enough of those disaffected voters to win an election outright. In Maryland, a Republican needs crossover Democratic votes to win - and a lot of them.
In 2002, when Ehrlich became the first Republican in a generation to win Maryland's governorship, he was lifted over his Democratic opponent Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in large part by scoring 22 percent among Democrats.
Four years later when he was ousted by O'Malley, Ehrlich mustered a smaller, 15 percent of the Democratic vote. Now, only 10 percent of self-identified Democrats say they back Ehrlich in the rematch.
Maryland's breed of Democrats - voters who still support President Obama more than nationally, and who feel generally positive about the federal government at a rate nearly twice that of Democrats elsewhere - are closing ranks behind their candidate.
Given Maryland Democrats predilections, that makes more sense.
Does that mean the race is over? No - far from it, in fact. And here are some of the critical issues we'll tracking in the election's final weeks:
Turnout: O'Malley still needs to get his supporters to the polls, and that will remain no small task in a mid-term without a presidential race. Polls that have shown the O'Malley-Ehrlich contest closer in recent weeks have largely stemmed from assumptions about turnout. The Post poll doesn't slice the numbers as some partisan pollsters do, and we're confident in our results, but we'll wait to see who's right. Also: How many so-called Obama voters who registered for the first time in 2008 will return to the polls? If they don't return, will the numbers shift Ehrlich's way?
Money and Ads: The Post poll was conducted last week as the first real infusions of money from both the Republican and Democratic governors associations showed up in the form of television ads in the Washington region. The Republican Governors Association campaign seems to be predicated on the notion that with Ehrlich trailing in the money race and with limited money to pay for ads, no one has yet taken a clean shot at O'Malley's record and effectively tapped into voter angst about the economy. If polls in coming weeks show O'Malley's favorability rating slipping, will the RGA press forward or save its money for a closer race in another state? We'll probably know by the middle of October.
The Economy and "scandal": After four months of job gains, Maryland's economy lost nearly 6,000 jobs in August and its unemployment rate inched back up to 7.3 percent. Will another month of bad economic news late in October (and during the state's early voting week) foul voters' mood less than two weeks before the election? And will Ehrlich and the state's GOP gain any traction with newfound e-mails that show an O'Malley cabinet member ordered a jobs report removed from a state Web site that contradicted the governor's office's more positive approved spin on economic news last month? Republicans are attempting to frame the e-mails and removed jobs report as a scandal, and say it undercuts O'Malley's credibility. The e-mails surfaced after the poll was conducted.
News You Should Know
Obama to campaign in Md. for O'Malley
"President Obama will campaign for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Oct. 7, according to two state Democratic sources. A location has not been finalized, one source said. But another said Prince George's County, specifically Bowie State University, was the likely venue. One day after O'Malley visited the White House for a bill signing ceremony, his reelection campaign also got an on-air boost from the president. In a new 60-second radio ad, Obama credits O'Malley for making "tough decisions to put education, safety and job creation first." Without mentioning O'Malley's opponent by name, Obama frames the rematch with former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) as a choice between "moving forward" or slipping "backwards" and refers to O'Malley as "my friend."
Listen to Obama's Maryland radio ad.
-- Aaron C. Davis and Ann E. Marimow
Ehrlich, GOP accuse O'Malley of jobs report cover-up
"Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and his supporters tried on Tuesday to use a batch of government e-mails released this week to portray his rival, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), as more concerned with politics than job creation," writes The Post's Ann E. Marimow. "Ehrlich's campaign dropped a second round of documents that show O'Malley's administration scrambling to cope with the fallout from an economic report that was inadvertently posted last month on a state Web site. The e-mails, which The Post obtained and authenticated, do not provide much new information, but offer a rare look at the inner workings of O'Malley's administration, including candid exchanges from top aides who were clearly concerned about public perception and how the internal report ended up in the hands of Ehrlich's campaign."
Bill Clinton to campaign for Mikulski
After Vice President Joe Biden held a fundraiser for her last week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's office says former President Bill Clinton will headline at a campaign fundraiser for the Maryland Democrat next month in Bethesda, The AP reports. "A Mikulski spokeswoman said Tuesday that the event Oct. 10 at a supporter's home also will feature Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Mikulski faces Republican physician and Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz in the Nov. 2 general election."
Aaron C. Davis
| September 29, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
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