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A half-dozen things to watch when the polls close

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerWe're there.

Anyone who's read this column in recent months no doubt has noticed the countdown to Election Day that's been running above. We'll have to come up with something new for tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a half-dozen things we'll be watching today and in days to come:

1. How turnout drives the governor's race

For weeks, both camps have been saying this race is largely about getting their people out to vote.

Prince George's rally.jpgIn such a blue state, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) should win reelection if he has motivated enough Democrats to go to the polls, particularly in Prince George's County and Baltimore, where he focused his late-hour campaign efforts Monday.

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) needs phenomenal numbers from the Baltimore suburbs, and he needs Democrats in the Washington region and in Baltimore who would be inclined to vote for O'Malley to stay home. He is also trying to boost his numbers in Montgomery County.

Rallies held Monday night should give both candidates some pause.

Arbutus rally.jpgNoticeably fewer people turned out for an Ehrlich gathering at an American Legion post near his boyhood home of Arbutus than in April, when he used the same venue for a rally on the first night of his comeback campaign. The crowd was enthusiastic, but there was far less energy in the room than when Ehrlich began the race.

Even fewer people showed up for an O'Malley rally a couple of hours later in a high school gym in Upper Marlboro. A Post reporter put the attendance at about 100, which filled only a portion of a venue too big for the occasion.

Granted, voting and rallying require different levels of commitment. But turnout remains a real wild card.

2. The size of GOP pickups in the General Assembly

Thumbnail image for Cloudy State House.jpgRepublicans started the election cycle touting the possibility of a much-coveted five-seat gain in the state Senate, where they currently hold only 14 of 47 seats. Nineteen may not sound much better, but it would allow the party to sustain filibusters -- and force negotiations on issues it cares about.

That seems a real long shot now. In fact, on Monday night, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) was boasting about the prospect of his party picking up a seat or two in the chamber and bucking the national trend.

A modest number of Republican pickups in the House of Delegates is almost a certainty. We'll await the spin from both sides, but if O'Malley wins the governor's race, it's hard to imagine much practical effect. Republicans now claim 37 of 141 seats in the House chamber.

3. How badly Mikulski beats Wargotz

NewerMikulskimug.jpgWhen the cycle started, Maryland Republicans were pointing to Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts as evidence that no Democrat was safe this year. It's been awhile since we heard anyone use that race to describe what's possible in Maryland.

Barring the cataclysmic, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) should coast to another term over Eric Wargotz, a Queen Anne's County commissioner, who remains largely unknown despite the shoe leather he has put into the race.

4. Whether Harris actually beats Kratovil

Harrisshot.jpgThe 1st Congressional District race began as the challenger's to lose. But somehow, Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.), who was swept into office in 2008, has managed to stay afloat against state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County).

Harris may well pull this out. If he loses, it could be the most demoralizing defeat of the night for the Maryland GOP.

5. The fortunes of Hoyer and Van Hollen

Thumbnail image for HoyerPelosi.jpgBoth Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen should be easily re-elected in Maryland Tuesday. The question is how the Republican tide outside the state's borders will affect their respective political futures.

Hoyer obviously won't be majority leader if his party is no longer in the majority. But some have argued the loss could actually help his cause within the Democratic caucus and create an opening to be Speaker if the party regains power anytime soon.

Van Hollen has led the Democratic effort to hold onto House seats nationally in what everyone acknowledges has been a difficult year.

6. Whether slots are coming to the mall

Thumbnail image for Anne Arundel slots.jpgThis ballot measure will be decided by voters in one county -- Anne Arundel -- and affect the future of just one slots casino. But there's an awful lot of money at stake -- for the developer and the state -- and the outcome could tell us something about the mood of the electorate.

At issue: whether to allow a zoning measure to stand that is needed for Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. to build a 4,750-machine casino at Arundel Mills mall.

The early betting was the measure would fail, in part because it seemed another way for an angry electorate to lash out. But the pro-Cordish campaign seems to have peaked at the right time. It could turn out to be one of the best races of the night.

Some more numbers: Our friends at The Baltimore Sun, perhaps feeling slightly more ambitious, have come up with "Nine things to watch for during Maryland's election day." We, meanwhile, offer "Seven ways the gubernatorial election could change Maryland" in the pages of The Post.

-- John Wagner

Things To Know As You Vote Today

Vote.jpgThe Capital Weather Gang says it will be a "quite chilly" election day in the Washington region and advises that the "most pleasant time to vote will be in the afternoon, when highs reach the low 50s under mostly clear skies." Polls in Maryland are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. We can help you find your polling station. Our Voter's Guide is available online for last-minute consultation, and there's still time to read many of our stories about the race. Meanwhile, we'd love to have you tell us about your voting experience and invite you to submit photos from your Election Day experiences.

News You Should Know

Ehrlich downs donuts, touts endorsement in Rockville
Kreme4.jpg"Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) touted an unexpected endorsement Monday from a college newspaper as he urged Montgomery County supporters to vote Tuesday during a stop at a Krispy Kreme in Rockville," writes The Post's John Wagner. "'Montgomery's the key -- it really is,' Ehrlich told a few dozen supporters who greeted him late Monday morning outside the doughnut shop. 'Get our number in Montgomery County, and it's not close tomorrow.'" Ehrlich then headed to Baltimore County, his political base, where he made several more stops.

O'Malley seeks to drum up support in city he led
Thumbnail image for DSC_0404.JPG"Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) returned to his home turf of Baltimore Monday for a whirlwind tour of hand-shaking, hugging -- and even singing -- on the final day of his reelection campaign," writes The Post's Ann E. Marimow. "Striding up E. Monument Avenue just blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital, O'Malley was warmly embraced by small business owners, city workers and other residents, many who shouted encouraging words to the city's former mayor like, 'We've got your back, O'Malley!'"

Montgomery judge dismisses suit in ambulance fees case
AmbulanceFee.jpg"A Montgomery County judge said on Monday that a county-produced campaign flier advocating ambulance fees was designed to intimidate voters, but he dismissed a suit challenging government campaign efforts because he ruled it was filed one day late," writes The Post's Michael Laris. "The government flier says blocking the fee could result in: 'Longer Response Times for Ambulances' and 'Increased Risk for Our Families and Property,' among other things."


"We would not be standing here today but for Kendel Ehrlich, and that's the truth."
-- former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), addressing an election-eve crowd Monday night on what inspired his comeback bid

Thumbnail image for mike miller.jpg"We're going to shock the nation tomorrow in my opinion. Maryland is going to gain seats in the legislature, Democrats. Unlike any other state in the union, New York, Mississippi, Democrats are shedding seats; I'm going to pick up seats tomorrow in the Senate."
-- Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), late Monday prognosticating about the outcome of several contested seats in the General Assembly.

"Everything that's been said has been said; it's voting time."
-- Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) at his last campaign stop on Monday night in Prince George's


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 John Wagner  | November 2, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis, First Click, John Wagner  
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Next: Ehrlich, O'Malley camps make late-hour e-mail appeals

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