Sep 29, 2010 0
After months and months of the race between Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and challenger Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. churning inside the margins of error in poll after poll, The Washington Post released the results of a new survey Tuesday night that shows O’Malley ahead by 11 points.
The Post’s poll put the gap at 52-41 — among likely voters with a 4 percent margin of error — with five weeks left to go in a rematch of the 2006 gubernatorial contest, when O’Malley beat Ehrlich 53-46.
Just eight days ago, a Rasmussen poll showed the two men statistically tied (as they have been for much of the summer and early fall), with O’Malley’s 50-47 lead just within the 4 percent margin of error.
O’Malley, who carried a huge cash advantage into the race, has been outspending Ehrlich on the airwaves. O’Malley launched his first TV ads in the Baltimore market in July, while Ehrlich waited early September. (TBD.com has some quick analysis of the poll posted. And a hat tip to them for the tweet that called my attention to the poll.)
Despite the bottom-line number, there are some trends in the Post poll that mirrored those in other polls released on the race.
Ehrlich enjoys strong support in his own party and appears to be winning over more independents than O’Malley. But in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 and make up half of the likely voters, Ehrlich doesn’t seem to be making enough headway in building support across party lines.
Ehrlich pulled 22 percent of the Democratic vote in 2002, when he became the first Republican to be elected Maryland’s governor in a generation. The Post poll showed only 15 percent of Democrats back Ehrlich, and O’Malley has actually strengthened his hold on vote-rich Montgomery County.
And the economy remains the top issue for voters. According to the Post’s story, 43 percent of voters trust Ehrlich to handle the $1.1 billion budget shortfall, while 40 percent trust O’Malley. The paper takes this to mean that Ehrlich is in a tight spot because he’s already ahead on the top issue, but still behind in the race.
I’m not sure how strong the connection is between budget issues and economic woes in the minds of most people — gauging voters on who they trust to tackle unemployment would hit closer to that point — but it still can’t be seen as a positive for Ehrlich. It could indicate the issues and the records of the two men who have both held the office for four years aren’t important enough to sway a large swath of voters one way or the other.