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MD Governor: Ehrlich vs. O'Malley

The Baltimore Sun's latest poll, released Sunday, showed Governor Ehrlich down 8 pts in his race against Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. Rasmussen Reports released their Maryland numbers yesterday and they give O'Malley a similar 7-pt lead.

MD Governor
O'Malley (D) 49 (51)
Ehrlich (R) 42 (42)

Normally an incumbent trailing and polling around 40% is bad news, but Maryland is a peculiar state politically where Democrats maintain roughly a 2-1 advantage in party registration. These two new polls are actually very good news for the Ehrlich campaign and indicate that the Governor is poised to pull this race out in November. This race has always been slated to be a dog fight to the end, but Ehrlich's ability to pull within 7-8 in the pre-Labor Day polls should be giving the O'Malley folks concern.

Maryland's economy is booming, unemployment is at 3.8% and Ehrlich's job approval is over 50%. These are not small factors that will all work solidly in Ehrlich's favor as this campaign kicks into high gear.

The Senate Democratic primary battle between Rep. Ben Cardin and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume is also likely have ripple effects on the Governor's race. Democrats are caught in a little bit of a catch-22 situation. On one hand the conventional wisdom runs that an Mfume win over Cardin works to the GOP advantage in the fall. But the Democrats run a real risk of a depressed or unenthused black electorate come November if Cardin wins the primary in a squeaker.

It was the less than enthusiastic embrace for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the African-American community that helped put Erhlich over the top in 2002, and the Democrats risk a repeat of that performance with the rejection of Mfume.

The flip side of that for the Republicans, is that while Michael Steele almost definitely wants to see Mfume as his opponent, the conventional wisdom of an Mfume primary win on the Governor's race may have to be recalibrated in light of what would probably be a massive black turnout for Mfume in the general if he beats Cardin in September.