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The Post poll: What to make of the new numbers

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Monday, October 25, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerIt's not as though Maryland voters are wild about how things are going.

In fact, they are about evenly divided over whether the state is on the right track or wrong track, a new Washington Post poll has found. Forty-seven percent of likely voters say right track; 48 percent say wrong track.

But a solid majority -- 59 percent -- say they approve of the job that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is doing. And former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) hasn't made the case that he should be returned to power instead.

Animosity image.jpgThis clearly will be the most talked-about finding in the poll: 54 percent say they would vote for O'Malley if the election were held today, while 40 percent say they would choose Ehrlich.

The Post poll, published Monday, is the second in two days to show the Democratic incumbent with a 14-point margin against the Republican he replaced in 2007. In a poll in The Baltimore Sun on Sunday, O'Malley was ahead of Ehrlich, 52 percent to 38 percent.

We fully expect pushback today against our numbers from Ehrlich boosters, as we experienced last month when our poll showed O'Malley up by 11 points.

It's true that polls are only as good as the turnout models upon which they are built, and Ehrlich and his allies continue to argue that 2010 will produce an electorate far more friendly to the Republican hopeful than in recent gubernatorial cycles. We'll see in just eight days whether that's the case.

Regardless, there is still a week left to sway voter opinion. Today, for example, Ehrlich has advertised an event in Baltimore County -- an area where he is counting on heavy turnout -- to outline his "first-week priorities as governor."

Pollgraphic (2).jpgBut impressions of the hopefuls are clearly taking root.

One of the more interesting questions in The Post poll asked voters which candidate they think will win, regardless of whom they support. That result: 67 percent say O'Malley; 23 percent say Ehrlich; a truly incomprehensible 1 percent say someone else; and 4 percent have no opinion.

Also of note: More people say they have made up their minds about how they are voting than in a Post poll a month ago -- leaving Ehrlich less room to maneuver. Among O'Malley voters, 83 percent say they will definitely vote for him; that's up from 77 percent last month. Among Ehrlich voters, the current "definite" figure is 82 percent, up from 80 percent last month.

The poll also found no sizable enthusiasm gap between Ehrlich and O'Malley supporters. Among Ehrlich supporters, 86 percent say they are either "very" or "fairly" enthused about their choice. Among O'Malley supporters: 89 percent. Ehrlich has a slight edge over O'Malley in supporters who report being "very" enthused: 41 percent to 36 percent.

Today's poll story, written with my colleague Aaron C. Davis and our polling director, Jon Cohen, provides many other numbers in addition to those discussed above, not all of which made it into the paper. We have also put plenty of other data online, including trends from past polls.

And there's still more to come. Check back here as the day unfolds.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Recession-weary voters not rallying around Ehrlich
Ehrlich clasped hands.jpg"Christopher Moylan knows the depths of the recession in Maryland. His wife's employer cut back her billing hours, leaving Lauri with $60,000 less in income. The Towson couple maxed out credit cards to cover their mortgage and living expenses for three kids. At work, he's a collections attorney who has pushed hundreds of fellow Marylanders to the brink, suing them to repay debts. Now he and Lauri have filed for bankruptcy," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "Moylan is the voter that former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has spent the most time courting and needs desperately to turn his way before Nov. 2 to retake the office. Moylan can answer only 'no' when asked the Reaganesque question Ehrlich poses in his latest ad: 'Are you better off today than you were four years ago?' Yet Moylan -- like most of the likely voters hit hardest by the recession -- says he is backing incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)."

Both parties seek to take advantage of early-voting law
OMalleyvotes2.jpg"As Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and a parade of mostly Democratic politicians cast their ballots Friday to promote early voting, the real work of using the state's first week-long get-out-the-vote period for a general election began to take shape around folding tables in empty offices rented recently by the state's Democratic and Republican parties," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner. "Maryland's two main political parties say they are pulling out all the stops to get as many voters to the polls as they can before Nov. 2. The behind-the-scenes machinations (were) matched with very public efforts beginning Saturday with dueling statewide tours by O'Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr."

Looking for a Mikulski-Wargotz debate? Not going to happen
Wargotzlooks.png"There is one thing on which Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and her reelection opponent, Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz (R), agree: They won't be convening for any full-fledged debates in the 11 days remaining before Election Day," The Post's Ben Pershing writes. "On Thursday, the Wargotz campaign blasted out a release hitting Mikulski for her 'refusal to debate.' 'I don't know if it's because her record is indefensible or because she just doesn't care anymore, but either way, Mikulski's unwillingness to engage intellectually with Maryland citizens is troubling,' Wargotz said in the release, adding that 'several media outlets ... have expressed interest in hosting debates.' Not so, says Simone Ward, Mikulski's campaign manager. 'We were never contacted by a media outlet or by the [Wargotz] campaign until Monday of this week,' Ward said Thursday."

Another poll shows Anne Arundel slots fight too close to call
Anne Arundel slots.jpg"Voters in Anne Arundel County are nearly evenly split on a ballot referendum that will decide the fate of a planned billion-dollar slots casino and entertainment complex at Arundel Mills mall, according to a new Baltimore Sun poll," reports The Sun's Nicole Fuller. "Forty-seven percent of likely county voters said they would support Question A, the ballot question that would allow zoning needed to build a slots parlor at Arundel Mills, and 45 percent said they are opposed. Because the survey has a margin of error of 5 percentage points, the results represent a statistical tie. 'It's a toss-up,' said pollster Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the polling company retained by The Sun."

Conservative enclave of Damascus stands out in Montgomery
PerplexedMoCoresident.jpg"Montgomery's Republicans are almost completely shut out of government power. The county's eight state senators, 24 delegates, nine council members and the county executive are Democrats. A pair of planning board members and an appointee who oversees the sewage system are Republicans, but they got their jobs through a kind of arrangement for non-Democrats," writes The Post's Michael Laris. "But Damascus is different. Thanks to geographic realities and political deal making, Republicans outnumber Democrats within a set of jury-rigged boundaries on Montgomery's northern edge. Out of the county's nearly 1 million residents, 5,809 Republican voters living here amid the soybean and corn fields lucked into having a member of Congress from their own party."

Quotables

NewerMikulskimug.jpg"I was so proud of her. She was the first lady minister to head up a megachurch, with all those powerful men. ... She was a great friend. She always gave me a word of wisdom. If my slip was showing, she told me that, too."
-- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) at Friday's funeral in Prince George's County for Apostle Betty Peebles

Ehrlichmikes.jpg"In Annapolis, we're going to have a former Speaker soon. His name is Mike Busch."
-- former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), speaking Saturday night at a rally in Severna Park, predicting House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) will lose his seat in the House of Delegates on Nov. 2

"Whether 14 points is in the ballpark or not, it doesn't look like things are swinging Mr. Ehrlich's way."
-- Andy Green, writing on the Second Opinion blog of The Baltimore Sun's editorial board, regarding his paper's poll finding in the governor's race

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By John Wagner  | October 25, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  First Click, John Wagner  
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Next: Washington Post Maryland governor's race poll: Your turn

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