The Magellan Strategies survey shows Ehrlich at 46 percent to O’Malley’s 43 percent. Four percent back other candidates, while 7 percent are undecided. The survey has a margin of error of 3.57 percent, meaning the contest is essentially a tie at this point.
The poll showed Ehrlich with a higher overall favorability rating than O’Malley. But more interesting, as the Washington Examiner reports today, is that a full quarter of Maryland Democrats back Ehrlich, while just 7 percent of Republicans back O’Malley.
John White, a professor of politics at Catholic University of America, told the Examiner, “It's very difficult to make a comeback but if Ehrlich were to do it, this is the year for it.”
Ehrlich’s electoral success in Maryland has always been more about his opponents and the national climate than about him. In 2002, Ehrlich, then a congressman, reluctantly agreed to challenge Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was seen as a prohibitive favorite in a Democratic state. But Townsend ran a sloppy, gaffe-rich campaign, and the national mood that year was Republican. Ehrlich ran a safe campaign, and won by 4 percentage points.
Four years later, the mood had changed. Though Ehrlich was a relatively popular governor with a moderate record, Republican fortunes were at a low. The state focused more on the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Ben Cardin and Ehrlich’s Lt. Gov. Michael Steele than on the gubernatorial race. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley capitalized on the state’s Democratic advantage and rode the national anti-GOP wave to a 6-point victory. Steele, of course, went on to become the always-entertaining chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Now, the tide has turned again. Barack Obama, who received 62 percent of Maryland’s vote in 2008, now has a statewide approval rating of just 48 percent. Just as an anti-Bush wave carried Ehrlich out, an anti-Obama wave could carry him back in.
O’Malley is already showing some signs of desperation. His campaign ran a radio ad attempting to link Ehrlich to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which a Washington Post editorial called “ludicrous.” The Post also says O’Malley’s effort to label Ehrlich a lobbyist “is a serious stretch.”
The Post urges both candidates to focus on real issues impacting the state. O’Malley is making an attempt to do so, with a new vow to spend $1 billion on school construction in a second term. The Post sees it as an “attempt to capitalize on education, an issue on which more voters trust him than Ehrlich.”
Ehrlich, creator of Maryland’s charter school law, has called for doubling the number of charters in the state.