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May 16, 2006
Mfume Lashes Out At Democrats

Kweisi Mfume has trailed fellow Democratic candidate Benjamin Cardin for the nomination to replace Senator Paul Sarbanes in November's midterm election since both candidates declared for the race, and Mfume now believes that the party has deliberately favored Cardin. The former NAACP gave an angry interview to the Washington Times in which he hinted that the Democrats may wind up sacrificing his support if he loses:

Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume said yesterday that Democrats risk losing the senatorial election because "old-line party bosses" are undermining his campaign and alienating black voters.

Mr. Mfume also would not say whether he would endorse Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the front-runner for the Democratic Senate nomination, if he should lose to the lawmaker in the September primary. "I can say that there will be people who will feel disaffected [if I am not the nominee]," Mr. Mfume told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. ...

Calling Mr. Steele a "friend," Mr. Mfume said he shares similar goals and ideas with the Republican official as well as Mr. Cardin.

"I agree with both of them, maybe equally but on different things," said Mr. Mfume, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mfume has fallen significantly behind Cardin in fundraising and in polling, and so far looks like he will not come close to beating the Congressman for the nomination. The lack of contributions surprises, given Mfume's prominence in the civil-rights movement and the high profile of Lt. Governor Steele's campaign as a black Republican candidate for national office. Analysts expected Mfume to do better and perhaps expected Democrats to favor him as a means of negating Steele's draw among Maryland's African-Americans.

Apparently, Mfume expected that as well, and has become frustrated when it did not materialize. His interview with Miller and Ward show hints that Mfume has become disaffected enough to defy the Democrats if he loses in the primary. He mentions his friendship with Steele, and the curious statement that he agrees equally with Cardin and Steele sounds like a clear warning that an endorsement of Steele has become a possibility. He appears to be building a case for that, or perhaps an excuse for refusing to endorse Cardin.

Mfume explicitly chides the state Democratic party for ignoring black candidates, especially after the last gubernatorial election. Robert Ehrlich teamed up with Steele to win the governor's mansion that year after the Democrats failed, in Mfume's "humble" opinion, to engage African-American voters. He points out that Cardin has started to follow this same flawed strategy; Cardin's team acknowledges that they will not have any special message for any component communities of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have not given blacks a reason to support them, according to Mfume's argument, and so they will concede their strongest demographic to the Republicans and Michael Steele.

If Mfume bolts the Democrats in the midterms, the seat which belongs to Paul Sarbanes will be a lock for the GOP. This interview with a well-known conservative newspaper amounts to a shot across the bow from Mfume to the Democrats. In a season when they harbor such ambitions for a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, conceding Maryland's Senate race will be a disaster. As the highest office in the midterm elections, courting African-American disaffectation will reverberate through all of the Congressional races in Maryland as well, and may accelerate a process of rethinking their monolithic support of Democrats that has already begun.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 16, 2006 5:34 AM

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