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Empty chairs at Maryland Tea Party?

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Friday, October 1, 2010:

The Agenda
Aaron.jpgA substantially smaller percentage of registered voters in Maryland have favorable impressions of the Tea Party compared to voters nationally, according to a new Washington Post poll

Nationwide, 40 percent of all registered voters polled in September had either a "strongly" or "somewhat" favorable opinion of the Tea Party. But in Maryland, that figure is just 25 percent, according to a new Post poll released this week.

The percentage with an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party also is slightly higher - 48 percent in Maryland to 43 percent nationally, according to the poll.

DSC_0688.JPGYou can chalk some of that disparity up to Maryland's deep shade of blue on national electoral maps, but not all:

In Maryland, the combined slice of registered voters in the poll that identified themselves as either Republican or independent was 39 percent, meaning that if not a single Democrat in the state responded that they thought highly of the Tea Party, fewer than 2 out of 3 Republican and independents did. In fact, even the percentage of pure Republicans in the state is slightly larger than the number that thinks fondly of the Tea Party, the poll suggests.

So what's it mean for November?

Well, it helps explain why Sarah Palin's endorsement of Brian Murphy and the Tea Party fervor that propelled Christine O'Donnell to victory in neighboring Delaware failed to have the same effect this month for the long-shot Montgomery County Republican that Palin endorsed against Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. in the governor's race. Murphy did not claim the mantle of Tea Partier, but he did run to the right of Ehrlich.

It also helps explains why Eric Wargotz was able to defeat tea-party favorite Jim Rutledge in a crowded Republican primary for the right to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. (The hundreds of thousands of dollars Wargotz spent of his own money -- and that he's at least a Tea Party sympathizer -- may help explain that, too).

Also, the poll results suggest it was a relatively safe venue for Vice President Joe Biden to remark last week that tea party wins may be a good thing for Democrats. "They're angry, and they're angry against whoever is in power." Biden said at a Montgomery County fundraiser for Mikulski. "Maybe the best thing to happen to us lately is the tea party wins. Maybe it'll shake some of our constituency out of their lethargy."

And, it suggests that for the national profile Charles Lollar is building as a rare African American Tea Party candidate, his bid to unseat House Majority Whip Steny H. Hoyer faces an even steeper climb than some supporters may have thought.

lollar.jpgState GOP chair Audrey Scott has been quoted as saying she thinks Lollar's victory over Hoyer in November could be the "Maryland Miracle." We'll leave it at that.

More broadly, the poll also begins to give shape to a Tea Party movement in Maryland that political scientists had begun to conclude was relatively weak, compared to those in neighboring states.

Yet, in step with primary results that showed conservative candidates ousting more moderate Republican members of Maryland's General Assembly, the quarter or so in the state that appear to back the Tea Party may also be a sign of an increasingly polarized Maryland electorate.

(Left: Tea Bag earings at a Tea Party rally in Annapolis early this year)
DSC_0695.JPGDave Schwartz, director of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which claims 25,000 in-state members, recently told The Washington Examiner that he thinks the Tea Party is strong in Maryland, and that primary results showed the strength of the conservative element within state politics.

There are at least 30 tea-party affiliated groups in Maryland, but with their membership spread thin, and Democrats holding a 2 to 1 advantage among registered voters, they will have to get more creative than in other states to affect a statewide race in Maryland.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Ehrlich, O'Malley agree to Oct. 11 debate

election2010.gif"After weeks of wrangling, Maryland's two leading gubernatorial candidates have agreed to at least one televised debate: Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) will square off Oct. 11 on WJZ, the CBS affiliate in Baltimore," reports The Post's John Wagner. "The hourlong encounter, to be moderated by WJZ anchor Denise Koch, will be taped that morning before a small studio audience and will air at 7 p.m., according to representatives from both campaigns. The candidates have agreed to cover five to six major topics, with each answering a question and allowing Koch the opportunity for follow-up. Spokesmen for both Ehrlich and O'Malley said they remain in discussions about other debate proposals from several organizations, including The Washington Post. In their 2006 race, O'Malley and Ehrlich debated twice -- both on the same day."

Washington biz group endorses O'Malley, small biz goes to Ehrlich
"The Greater Washington Board of Trade, the largest organization representing business interests in the national capitol region has endorsed Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for reelection. That's interesting on at least two levels: For one, the group endorsed former governor Bob Ehrlich (R) over O'Malley four years ago. In fact, in both 2002 and 2006 the board went for Ehrlich, saying he had lived up to his pledges to be pro-business. Second reason: Until the end of 2009, John M. Kane was the board's chair. Yes, that Kane, husband of Mary Kane, Ehrlich's running mate. ... Ehrlich wasn't without his own business endorsement to announce Thursday. The National Federation of Independent Business, the largest small business group in Maryland, endorsed the Republican's comeback campaign."
-- Aaron C. Davis


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is, right now, in a place where a lot of his fellow Democrats around the country sure wish they were."
-- Post columnist Mike DeBonis

"I am preparing for four years of a constant diet of cuts and public-private partnerships and other things in order to keep us moving forward."
-- Gov. Martin O'Malley telling a Frederick business group that his budget for next year includes no new taxes or fees.


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics each weekday. You can also find First Click on Facebook and Twitter.

By Aaron C. Davis  | October 1, 2010; 9:28 AM ET
Categories:  First Click  
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Next: Ehrlich campaign ad claims 'cover-up' on Md. jobs report



Cook Political Report moves MD race to 'toss up'

National political analyst Charlie Cook disregarded a recent Washington Post poll giving Gov. Martin O'Malley an 11 point advantage among likely voters in his rematch with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and yesterday moved the contest from "leans Democrat" to "toss up."

In his Sept. 30 report, Cook stresses that both candidates have said the race will be close, both the RGA and the DGA have poured money into the state, and that this year O'Malley has the "political winds blowing in his face."

"It looks increasingly like the race will end up being a single-digit contest," Cook wrote.

Cook has rated 17 other governor's races in the toss up category -- more evidence that there will be considerable competition for that national money.

But the report hardly represents a consensus view: Real Clear Politics has Maryland in the leans Democrat column, showing that the last three polls put O'Malley ahead by various margins. RCP guesses that O'Malley has a +5.7 advantage over Ehrlich.

Some Maryland prognosticators are scratching their heads about the Post's poll, with St. Mary's College political science teacher Todd Eberly hypothesizing that the paper's pollster overstated likely turnout.

Nevertheless, it's worth noting, as The Sun's Andy Green did on his Second Opinion blog, that the Post didn't veer from the methodology used for their May poll which showed 47-47 split among likely voters, meaning at the very least the trend line is one Ehrlich will want to turn around if he hopes to win.

Posted by: EIEAR | October 1, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The fact that the tea party is disliked so much in Maryland is further proof our schools are the best in the nation.

Posted by: MarilynManson | October 1, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

the facgt that the Greater Washington Board of Trade endorsed OMalley just shows that they know how perochial Ehrlich is. Bobby Haircut hates the Washington burbs and only comes here when he wants cash. OMalley ain't perfect, however, he does know the difference between Clarksburg, Clarksville, Hyattsville, and Hyattstown.

Posted by: VikingRider | October 1, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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