Fear the Turtle State
The gubernatorial and Senate campaigns in Maryland this year are presenting a nice example of one of the major subthemes of Election 2006: the overwhelming price that Blue State Republicans are finally paying for the sins of their national party.
Maryland GOPers went into the home stretch of this general election feeling pretty good about their prospects. Incumbent Gov. Bob Erlich had relatively high approval ratings, huge sacks of cash with which to impugn the mayoral record of Democratic nominee Martin O'Malley, and a reputation for closing well, given his upset win over Kathleen Kennedy Townsend four years ago. Their Senate nominee, Michael Steele, was perfectly positioned to exploit African-American disappointment with Kweisi Mfume's Democratic primary loss to Ben Cardin. Steele was also running some of the best ads of the cycle, and doing everything imaginable to distance himself from George W. Bush.
A new Washington Post poll of Maryland just out today indicates none of that much matters. Among likely voters, the poll has O'Malley up over Ehrlich 55-45, and Cardin up over Steele 54-43. Almost nobody appears to be undecided, though 15% of voters said they could change their minds. (This led Republicans to challenge the poll's methodology, though the Post has a track record of very conservative polling techniques, and a low undecided count is not unusual in nationalized midterm elections with well-known candidates).
The internals of the Post poll show that a lot of Maryland Democratic moderate voters that Democrats lost in 2002 are returning to the Donkey Ticket, and that Steele is not making much headway at all among African-Americans.
There are other polls out there showing both races as closer, but the Post's relatively large sample and good reputation makes me think this poll is probably spot-on. And given Erlich and Steele's strengths, this is yet another bad sign for the GOP heading towards November 7.
The Republican wave of 1994 depended in no small part on the inability of southern and western Democrats, however well-tailored for their states and districts, to separate themselves from a national party that had lost credibility with local voters. The same thing seems to be happening to Republicans in the northeast and midwest this year. --