Republican Gov. Larry Hogan continues to lead his Democratic challenger by double digits, according to a poll released Friday by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy.
The poll, which has Hogan leading Ben Jealous 56-37, represents the first look at the race since the Democratic challenger began running limited television advertising and performed credibly in the only scheduled debate. Nine percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.
Brad Coker, managing director of the poll, said that while the numbers represent a small bump for Jealous since the primary, the survey is consistent with other polls headed into the last 40 days of the race.
“Hogan continues to have more than a 10-point lead, he’s above 50 percent re-election and he continues to be personally popular,” said Coker.
The telephone poll of 625 registered Maryland voters who said they were likely to vote was conducted Sept. 24-26 and has a margin of error of 4 percent. The governor’s race questions were included by Mason-Dixon in an poll commissioned by a private client on other topics.
Shawn Quinn, the Libertarian Party candidate who also ran in 2014, and Ian Schlakman, the Green Party nominee, polled 1 percent each. The results were consistent with another independent poll taken a week earlier.
The Mason-Dixon Poll also found that Hogan holds a 68 percent job approval rating as well as a 64 percent favorable name recognition compared to 35 percent for Jealous.
Democrats have made analogies to Hogan and Robert Ehrlich, the last Republican governor, who had high job approval numbers but still lost to Martin O’Malley in 2006.
“O’Malley was a much smoother candidate,” said Coker. “Much better at running a campaign, a political family, political connections. He knew the state’s politics.”
The survey comes about a week after a Goucher College poll showed Hogan with a 22-point lead. Mileah Kromer, director of the poll, called that survey a good baseline as it came before the Monday night debate and Jealous’ first television ads since the primary.
Coker downplayed the effect of Jealous’ performance and the ads on his survey.
“I don’t get the sense that, given the governor’s continued popularity, that a debate here and a television ad there is really going to move the numbers,” said Coker. “This race is kind of locked in. I just don’t see a sign of weakness in the Hogan campaign.”
Coker’s poll notes strong performances — 47 points or better — by Hogan in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, a 39-point lead in central Maryland and a 32-point lead in Baltimore County.
Jealous holds a 33-point lead in Prince George’s County but just 8 points — 49-41 — over the Republican in Montgomery County.
Coker noted the margins in those counties are “significantly smaller than most Democrats have achieved in recent state elections.”
The Jealous campaign over the last year has stressed that its path to victory will include capitalizing on an expected national “Blue Wave” revolt against Republican President Donald Trump as well as turning out voters who have not traditionally gone to the polls.
The recent Goucher Poll attempted to quantify that Democratic wave with an assumption that 61 percent of those who turned out to vote would be Democrat — more than 4 points higher than Democrats have traditionally turned out in a general election.
“I tried to stay within the realm of what’s happened before,” said Coker. “The numbers have been 56-26-16 Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This might change a little in November but that’s not going to change a 15-point lead to a dead even race. It might make a 15-point lead a 12-point lead.”