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O’Malley and Ehrlich in a ‘virtual tie’

The Maryland governor’s race is a tight one, according to a recent poll, with a number of factors at play in keeping close the contest between Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The Rasmussen poll of likely voters showed Ehrlich leading O’Malley 47-46. But, with a 4.5 percent margin of error, the race is “a virtual tie.”

Republicans pounced on the results as proof of Ehrlich gaining momentum, after O’Malley led 49-43 in April. O’Malley reportedly dismissed the results when asked about the poll by a television news reporter.

On the economy, where the fighting has been waged in the governor’s race, 57 percent said cutting taxes is the best way to create jobs. The other options were “increasing government spending” (22 percent) and “not sure” (21 percent).

Ehrlich has repeatedly criticized O’Malley for a package of tax increases passed in 2007, and has promised to repeal the 1-cent increase in the state sales tax.

Only 11 percent said the economy was doing “good” and 42 percent said the situation was getting worse.

O’Malley frequently compares the state’s 7 percent unemployment rate to the national average of 9.5 percent, and the state’s budget situation to the deluge of red ink swamping states like California.

“I think it’s mostly going to (about) be jobs and economy,” said Matthew Crenson, a Johns Hopkins University professor, when asked about the November elections. “O’Malley has an uphill grind on that issue. Not because of anything he’s done but because voters don’t generally compare their states to other states.”

When pollsters asked voters about their opinion of O’Malley and Ehrlich as “people in the news,” 49 percent saw O’Malley favorably, compared with 54 percent for Ehrlich. O’Malley drew higher “very unfavorable” numbers, and Ehrlich stronger “very favorable” results.

Despite the anti-incumbent mood swirling, O’Malley still boasts a 50 percent job approval rating among likely voters. President Obama scored a 57 percent approval rating in the poll, with 42 percent of the respondents saying they “strongly approve” of the job Obama has done. That means Ehrlich may have a tougher time than other challengers around the country in redirecting dissatisfaction with Washington toward his opponent.

Obama’s policies, however, drew less rosy numbers than the president himself. Only 51 percent of the people polled were in favor of the health care overhaul. Forty-two percent said the stimulus packaged passed last winter helped the economy, but only 32 percent said it created new jobs. And only 39 percent agree with the Justice Department’s challenge of the Arizona immigration law.