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Cardin vs. Steele

Rep. Ben Cardin looks to have won by 8 points over former congressman and former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume, 45.8% - 37.7%. The Final RCP Average in this race pegged Cardin with a nine-point lead so this final is pretty much in line with expectations. Survey USA's final poll of 47% Cardin, 38% Mfume looks to have nailed this race.

The conventional wisdom for Maryland has always been that an Mfume win is what the GOP needed to really put this traditionally Democratic seat in play. Two weeks ago, however, I speculated that a Cardin win may lay the foundation for the same path to victory Gov. Bob Ehrlich followed in 2002. Now 2002 was a very different year in tone and tenor for Republicans, and at the end of the day, the current macro-negativity toward President Bush and the GOP is what makes Cardin the clear favorite here in the general. However, Steele should not be counted out in this race.

An unenthusiastic black vote was a crucial element to Ehrlich's win four years ago, and the rejection of Mfume will not help the Democrats in that regard. So not only will Cardin likely be looking at smaller than otherwise black turnout, Steele as the first African-American to win statewide in MD, is perfectly positioned to challenge for a large portion of Maryland's sizable African-American electorate. A smaller black turnout overall, coupled with Steele perhaps capturing 30% of the statewide African-American vote, could make this a very interesting race election night.