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Democrats seem to be facing an uphill battle in races across the country this fall — except in Maryland. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) now holds a commanding lead over former Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R). We explore the state of the race as it heads down the final stretch, and what it means about the political climate in Maryland.
- Andrew A. Green Opinion Editor, The Baltimore Sun
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, what we can learn about history from looking underwater and why our region's riverbeds are rife with artifacts. But first, the endangered political species that may still have a safe habitat in Maryland, the Democratic governor.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIRepublicans are running strong in gubernatorial races across the country and the GOP is looking to ride a wave of voter discontent to victory in states ranging from Ohio to Colorado. But in Maryland, the incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley is opening a commanding lead according to most polls. The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, have both released polls with O'Malley leading former governor Bob Ehrlich by 14 points. So what do these numbers mean about where Maryland is politically? And why is O'Malley's message picking up traction in Maryland while Democrats across the country are struggling with their campaigns? Joining us to explore the final stretch of this race is Andrew Green. Andy Green is the opinion editor of The Baltimore Sun. He joins us from studios at The Baltimore Sun. Andy, good to talk to you.
MR. ANDREW A. GREENHi, Kojo. Good to be here.
NNAMDIAndy, we're hearing everywhere that this is supposed to be the year of the Republican, that voters across the country are tired and fed up and ready to the bums out. But your paper and The Washington Post both put out polls that indicate Gov. O'Malley is carrying a big lead. What do these numbers say to you about where the political climate is right now in Maryland?
GREENWell, it's no surprise to anybody that Maryland is a solidly Democratic state. The question was really whether the national mood was going to affect things here. And certainly, that's what Bob Ehrlich assumed when he got into this race. You know, four years ago, things -- when he lost to Martin O'Malley, things were going well for Democrats. And when he was looking at this race this spring, he thought, you know, the winds are certainly blowing at Republicans' backs. And that nationwide, still seems to be the case. But I guess in the final analysis it should not be that surprising. The particular kind of anti-incumbent fervor that's going on around the country right now wouldn't really apply to Maryland that much. You know, it's -- since so much of the energy around the country is an anti-federal government mood and Maryland, by virtue of our location, is so intimately tied to the federal government, you could see why it wouldn't play quite so well here as it does in other places.
NNAMDILet me invite the listeners to join the conversation at 800-433-8850. What do you think explains the recent polls that indicate that Martin O'Malley has a commanding lead and has raced over Bob Ehrlich? 800-433-8850. Or you can send us a tweet @kojoshow. How does the anti-incumbent mood around the nation, in your view, Andy Green, tie in with the revolt in the so-called Tea Party, because I think that Bob Ehrlich is not exactly a Tea Party kind of Republican? And that may be...
GREENNo, not exactly.
NNAMDI...one of the reasons why he's not tapping into that mood.
GREENYeah. I mean, first of all, I would say I think the Tea Party is much less of a factor in Maryland than it is in other places. I mean, I you look at the results in the Republican primaries this year, there was a Tea Party-backed candidate against Bob Ehrlich who got no traction, really, whatsoever. He was even endorsed by Sarah Palin, this guy...
GREEN...Brian Murphy, and didn't really even get much of a fundraising boost out of it. You know, it just seems like, you know, -- whereas in, say, Delaware, the Tea Party was able to make a big difference. In Maryland, it seems not so much. You know, I've certainly heard from people who are, you know, big Tea Party fans who some of them say, yes, we'll wind up behind Bob Ehrlich. Some of them say, no, we won't. He's far too liberal for us. And if you certainly you looked at his record, he's much more moderate on social issues, physical issues, you name it, than the Tea Party people typically are. So I think it's a combination of things. Like first of all, the movement, I think is not as strong in Maryland as it is in other as it is in other states. And second, you're right that Bob Ehrlich is not really a Tea Party kind of guy at heart.
NNAMDIAndy Green is the opinion editor of The Baltimore Sun. He joins us from studios at The Baltimore Sun. Andy, you've written quite extensively about this before, but it bears mention again for those people who may think that the 14-point edge given by The Washington Post and the one given by the Baltimore Sun are the result of similarly executed polls, they would be wrong.
GREENNo. And I offer this not to criticize these two polls particularly, but to just give people sort of the standard caveats there to keep in mind when they look at polls, that different polls conducted by different people always have different methods. And there're quite significant differences in the way The Post does its polling and the way we have typically done our polling What they do is they basically call random phone numbers in Maryland and ask the people who answer, you know, are you registered voter? Are you likely to vote? And then use that as the basis of their interviews. And that has some advantages. You know, it cast a wide net. It gets people who only have cell phones, things liked that. What we do is we take list of people who have voted in the past or recently registered to vote and use that as our basis for who we call. It's tends to get fewer people who say they're going to vote but won't actually do it, but on the other hand, it's sort of a less sensitive thing to pick up changes in the electorate.
GREENSo we them different ways. You know, the fact that we both got exactly the same number is basically a coincidence, I think. But, you know, in either case, the polls, our poll, their poll, other polls, all generally show this race shifting in Martin O'Malley's favorite. If you look at, you know, the polls that the Post has conducted overtime, it's definitely shifting in O'Malley's direction. If you look at other independent polls, the same is -- same thing is consistently true. So you know, while we can't necessary, you know, put a whole lot of stuck in any one particular number, whether it's 14 points or 12 points or 10 points. You know, the basic message is that things are pretty clearly swinging Martin O'Malley's ways.
NNAMDILet's go to the telephones. Here is Samuel in Upper Marlboro, Md. Samuel, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
SAMUELHello. Hey, Kojo, how you doing?
NNAMDIHi, Samuel. I'm well.
SAMUELYou're asking question why the breeze has blown all over -- the country is not the same as Maryland and the governor race is because Marylanders are smart. We're just smarter people, I guess. We're not...
SAMUELWe're not dumb enough to fall for the rhetoric that's going around, thinking that the current administration is actually messing with the country. We know better, so we're not going to change that right now because we are happy, and we see things coming up and a brighter future, not -- no craziness is going around like Sarah Palin and the rest of them. We're just smart people.
NNAMDISam -- Samuel, score one for the Maryland self-image. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Andy, how do these numbers match up with what your expectations were for the race when Ehrlich first decided to run?
GREENI'm pretty surprised, actually. I thought it was going to be a close race throughout, you know, simply because these two guys are pretty well evenly matched up in general. And last time, O'Malley got about a six and a half point victory in a very good year for Democrats. With a very good year for Republicans, I thought, you know, Ehrlich -- I never -- I don't think I would have ever said that Ehrlich was the favorite by any means, but I thought it would probably be a pretty close race. And, you know, you never know. It might still end up a lot closer than this. Polls, as they say, are just a snapshot in time, both ours and The Post were conducted earlier this month. Things could change, but, you know, there -- it's hard to imagine exactly which...
NNAMDIWell, let's talk a little bit about how they might change because both candidates have been calling in the guns lately. O'Malley has hit...
NNAMDI...the campaign trail with President Obama and Bill Clinton. Ehrlich hosted a rally in Montgomery County yesterday with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. What, at this point in the race, in your view, could affect voter energy or enthusiasm in such a way that could tilt the final outcome?
GREENWell, it is hard to imagine. One thing that was consistent in our poll and The Post poll is that former Governor Ehrlich's negative ratings have really gone up over the course of this campaign. He's always traditionally been viewed pretty favorably by voters. And the O'Malley advertising barrage, I think, has really taken a dent at that. So it would be difficult for Governor Ehrlich to turn things around. I mean, he has to hope for, you know, some pretty major enthusiasm on his side to get people out to the polls and a real failure on the Democrat side. But that's a tough thing to bet on because in the state Democrats are pretty well organized and pretty well funded. And, you know, Governor O'Malley shows no signs of taking his foot off the accelerator. So, you know, it's -- anything is possible, but it's tough for the Ehrlich campaign right now.
NNAMDIOnto Ian in Bethesda, Md. Ian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
IANHi. I just want to offer my opinion on why Maryland is divergent from the general trend regarding Republicans, and I think it's because Maryland is a relatively small state, geographically, and it's dominated by an urban and -- area with Baltimore and also the suburban area complementing are adjacent to D.C. And so that's, generally, a bunch of government employees in urban areas who are generally much more liberal, so it's no surprise, of course, that the trend and likely voters would be toward the left.
NNAMDIIt's those Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County liberals, says Ian in Bethesda, Md. Andy Green, what do you think about that?
GREENWell, that's definitely true that that forms a bedrock base for Democrats. Now, Bob Ehrlich, I think, definitely made an effort in Montgomery County this time...
NNAMDILet's talk about that because he started...
NNAMDI...his campaign in Montgomery County.
NNAMDIHe picked a running mate from Montgomery County.
GREENHe did. But at the end of the day, you know, first of all, Montgomery County people -- I don't mean to insult anybody -- are typically not as nearly as engaged in state politics as they are in federal politics. You know, one of my colleagues on the editorial board grew up in Montgomery County and said he probably couldn't have told you who the governor was when he was growing up. I think that's a little bit typical because they're so focused on the federal government. There's that. There's also the fact that former Governor Ehrlich is against the purple line. Governor O'Malley is for it. And I think that's a winning issue for Governor O'Malley in the Washington suburbs. And also Governor Ehrlich is proposing cutting what's known as the geographic cost of education indexing, if -- your listeners, I'm sure are all well aware of what that is, but in case they're not, it's a portion of the state's education funding that disproportionately benefits Prince George's And Montgomery Counties. And there's a pretty effective press conference by Ike Leggett and Rushern Baker from Prince George's and also Stephanie Rawlings-Blake from up here in Baltimore calling Bob Ehrlich out on that. And I think that didn't him do any favors.
NNAMDIIan, thank you for your call. We move on to Eric in Potomac, Md. Eric, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ERICHey, Kojo. Just two quick observations. I'm a tractor-trailer driver that travels around the state, western Maryland all the way across the eastern shore. And I've noticed two things. The first thing I've noticed is that there's an overwhelming majority of Bob Ehrlich little yard signs and what have you that people have posted throughout the state. And I see next to nothing for Martin O'Malley. So what that indicates I'm not entirely certain. The other is referencing these two polls that you folks are talking about. The Sun and The Post, well, you know, The Post is notoriously a Democratic paper, and The Sun, perhaps, the same thing could be said about them, but the demographics of these two areas that they service, if you will, you know, are probably largely Democratic leaning. I'm just wondering your guest's opinion on the credibility of my observations and, you know, what impact they may have, and I'll hang up and listen. Thanks.
NNAMDIEric, thank you for your call. Here's Andy Green.
GREENDefinitely, early in the race, I think there was a pretty big disparity if you look at the yard sign or bumper stickers that there was a lot of energy on the Ehrlich side and not so much on the O'Malley side. And, at least, in my observation, that seems to have leveled out or maybe shifted in O'Malley's direction. You know, I live in Baltimore County, which is a big battleground between these two guys. And I certainly have seen that close to home. Then as far as the polls go, you know, we -- it costs a lot of money and effort to do these polls, and we wouldn't be doing them if we didn't think they were accurate and valid, you know? We surveyed the entire state. We -- both we and The Post, although we use different methodology, we both use statistically valid methods to try to conduct our surveys so that we get accurate information about the state of the electorate out there. There wouldn't be any point to doing it otherwise.
NNAMDIAnd finally, here is John in Anne Arundel County, Md. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi. Thank you, Kojo, for this opportunity. I just wanted to say that my wife and I are both registered Republicans in Anne Arundel County, but we intend to vote for O'Malley because we remember what he did to us every time we open our gas and electric bill.
NNAMDITalk about that, Andy Green.
GREENWell, the -- did the caller said he was going to vote for O'Malley or against O'Malley?
NNAMDIJohn, did you say you were gonna vote for O'Malley?
GREENGot you. So you're upset about the way former Governor Ehrlich handled the BG&E situation back in the day?
GREENSo that's a pretty tricky issue, you know? I don't think either guy comes out great on how they handled the electric rate situation...
NNAMDIHey, Andy. Here is this e-mail we got from Nick in Baltimore. "I was mad at the governor for a while, particularly when my electric bill spiraled out of control a few years ago.
NNAMDIHe's still not my favorite but he's doing a decent job running the state." And so this person, apparently, is gonna vote for O'Malley.
GREENYeah. So the issue of electric rates was the big thing between these two guys four years ago. It still got some people hopped up, but I don't think it's gonna be nearly so dominant an issue as it was. Although certainly like these -- that e-mail or that caller, there are definitely people out there who are still upset about it on one side or the other.
NNAMDIAndy, before you go, what are some of the other political questions you'll be looking for answers for or races you'll be watching when the election day results start rolling in?
GREENWell, the big two are the first congressional district centered on the eastern shore between Frank Kratovil, the incumbent, and Andy Harris, the Republican who...
GREEN...Mr. Kratovil, yeah, narrowly defeated two years ago. This is another one that, you know, from all -- from most indications, seems like is still pretty close, which is quite remarkable in a district as Republican as that one that Frank Kratovil is hanging in there at all, so that one is still pretty up in the air. And then also, of course, the question of the slots referendum in Anne Arundel County is also too close to call, so we'll be watching very closely on that one.
NNAMDIGood luck. Andy Green is the opinion editor of The Baltimore Sun. Andy, thank you very much for joining us.
NNAMDIWe're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk -- we'll be talking about underwater archeology in the Potomac and the Patuxent Rivers. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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