The Washington Post polls registered voters in Maryland, and finds incumbent Democratic governor Martin O’Malley ahead of former governor Robert Ehrlich, 49 percent to 41 percent.
While I think Ehrlich has an uphill climb, this is a fairly encouraging poll for him. For starters,
among those who say they are certain to vote in November, the race is a dead heat, with both candidates drawing 47 percent . . . The poll reveals several potential advantages for Ehrlich, who lost to O’Malley four years ago, 53 to 46 percent. Ehrlich has the edge in voter trust on the state budget and taxes, and when it comes to the top issue, the economy, 43 percent trust the former governor to do a better job, 39 percent the current one. More than half of voters say the state is on the wrong track, and nearly half say O’Malley has not accomplished much in the top job.
Also, 37 percent declare Ehrlich a strong leader, and only 35 percent say the same for O’Malley.
The independent vote means less than usual in such a heavily Democratic state, but the poll also found:
One opening for Ehrlich is among independents, a group he is targeting heavily. When the Republican was victorious in 2002, he won the group by 11 percentage points. When he lost four years later, his margin was sliced to two, according to an exit poll. At the outset of this year’s race, Ehrlich is winning by 15 percentage points among independent voters.
But I suspect a lot of Ehrlich supporters would say his previous term as governor was something of a disappointment, with many of his ideas stymied by a heavily Democratic legislature. (Today the Maryland House of Delegates has 104 Democrats, 36 Republicans, and one Independent; the Maryland State Senate has 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans.) If Ehrlich is going to win this race, he needs a way to persuade the electorate that he can deliver more than gridlock. Of course, when a Democratic governor and Democratic legislature as passing laws that the voters don’t like, gridlock may be preferable.