Outlook: Leans Democratic
August 27, 2006 Update:
This is one race that is living up to its billing; Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich and Democrat Martin O’Malley are evenly matched in many ways, and the balance here is almost certainly turnout. Ehrlich has gained some and lost some around the state his first victory in 2002, and O’Malley should be able to do better in the Baltimore area and maybe even in some of the rural localities compared with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ehrlich has one of the toughest fights for any Republican incumbent in the country, but he also appears to be fully engaged and keeping the race very close when circumstances ought to favor a Democrat. We keep it as a Toss-up.
August 2, 2006 Update:
It is rare that an incumbent with a relatively high approval rating is considered a slight underdog, but that is the current position of Governor Bob Ehrlich. His status is solely due to his Republican Party identification; it’s a Democratic year overall, and Maryland appears exceptionally resistant to reelecting a Republican. We are reminded of the extraordinary case of Texas in 1994, when Democratic Governor Anne Richards had 70 percent favorable rating on Election Day. The very day that saw her defeated for a second term in a landslide by the GOP nominee, George W. Bush. Ehrlich’s opponent, Democrat Martin O’Malley, has not achieved “favorite” status, and the Republican incumbent might well pull this out in November, but the political winds are blowing Democratic and Ehrlich might be an unintended victim. We are not ready to call this contest–we believe that the Ehrlich-O’Malley race will be very, very tight and this is about as pure a Toss-up as you will find in the country.
June 29, 2006 Update:
Long before the polls turned on GOP Gov. Bob Ehrlich, the Crystal Ball has been predicting a close contest that Ehrlich could well lose in his substantially Democratic state. But a Washington Post poll taken June 19-25 suggests that Ehrlich will lose in a landslide. In the survey Ehrlich trails Democrat Martin O’Malley by 16 percentage points among likely voters, and O’Malley is also well over the critical level of 50 percent: O’Malley 55 percent, Ehrlich 39 percent, Other/Undecided 6 percent. We don’t believe the poll, which simultaneously showed that Ehrlich’s job approval was 56 percent positive and his personal rating was 55 percent favorable. This will be a tight contest, one way or the other. This campaign will matter enormously.
June 22, 2006 Update:
Doug Duncan is out as of June 22, making Martin O’Malley the Democratic nominee for Governor; Duncan cited health concerns. O’Malley is no worse than a slight underdog to Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich in November. If there’s a Democratic wave on election day, this oceanside state will get wet first.
March 27, 2006 Update:
The Crystal Ball still gives Gov. Bob Ehrlich the slightest edge, but this is going to be a true test for the Democratic drift of 2006. Ehrlich will have to work very hard to defeat the eventual Democratic nominee, probably Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley. Maryland is deeply Democratic and 2006 will be at least marginally a Democratic year.
The big news in the race for the governor’s mansion in Maryland has been the resignation of Gene Raynor from his post on the Baltimore Board of Elections. Democrats are trying to capitalize on Raynor’s resignation by linking Governor Bob Ehrlich to Raynor and last week’s problems at the primaries. Raynor’s ties to Ehrlich date back to his support for Ehrlich in his 2002 gubernatorial bid. For that reason, Raynor’s appointment earlier this year drew criticism from Democrats who said his management might favor Ehrlich. However, his appointment and subsequent resignation may be turn out to be beneficial for democrats. Yesterday, for example, the state Democratic Party characterized Raynor as Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s “elections puppet” and said that “his inability to manage a smooth primary election brought him under fire and unable to defend his performance.” In a statement on 9/21, Democratic challenger Martin O’Malley “said Ehrlich should take responsibility for the problems,” and characterized the problems as an example of “dysfunction from the state government.”
Another headache for Governor Ehrlich is the criticism he has drawn by calling for voters to stay home and vote via absentee ballot. O’Malley has accused Ehrlich of using scare tactics to keep voters away from the polls. These two issues combined may very well solidify or even increase the current O’Malley lead.
Alexander Covington, Crystal Ball Mid-Atlantic Regional Correspondent
A battle royal is brewing in Maryland, where first-term Governor Bob Ehrlich will have to fight hard to secure a second term. Narrowly elected over unpopular Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002, Ehrlich has stayed true to his conservative congressional roots. But, Maryland is a liberal, Democratic state. Ehrlich’s maximum vote share is probably around 53 percent, if all goes well for him.
Much will depend on the level of nastiness in the Democratic primary face-off between Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan. While O’Malley is the unquestioned early leader, it is unclear which one will finally emerge to challenge Ehrlich, who has made powerful enemies at the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post. These papers will join forces with the Democrats in a tooth-and-nail struggle to oust Governor Ehrlich.