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November 5, 2006
Maryland Democrats Watch African-American Voters Defect

Maryland Democrats have big problems in this election. The choice to back Benjamin Cardin over Kweisi Mfume has had serious consequences on their election prospects, and they may well lose a Senate seat to the GOP because of it. Now it also looks like the Democrats may have thrown away their chance to grab the governorship as black leaders endorsed incumbent Republican Robert Ehrlich over Martin O'Malley:

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. received the endorsement yesterday of a half-dozen black ministers who could sway Democratic voters in the battlegrounds of Prince George's County and Baltimore to cross party lines in the election Tuesday.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, stood on a street corner in South Baltimore surrounded by the ministers and touted his record of reaching out to minorities and implementing policies for urban voters, including programs for drug treatment instead of prison time.

"This is an agenda for people regardless of color," he said. "This is white and black and Hispanic and Republican and Democratic. We are changing Maryland for the better."

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, the Democratic nominee for governor, said yesterday during his final campaign run that he has stopped trying to win over undecided voters as he focused on rallying party faithful to get to the polls.

"The conversation is over," he said. "People have pretty much decided. Right now, it is just a matter of mobilizing. There is a certain number of people who have decided that, on balance, I would be a better governor for the next four years, and those are the people that we are communicating to now."

When Mfume got passed over by Democratic leadership in favor of Cardin, partly because of some personal pecadilloes, he warned that the move would untether black support from the Democrats in Maryland. Apparently the power brokers in the party assumed that their huge margin in party registrations in the state (56%-25%) would shield them from any adverse impact, and took their most loyal demographic for granted in the upcoming midterm elections. After all, they must have reasoned, the GOP got less than 10% of the African-American vote in the last presidential election -- what risk could there be?

Now they have found out. The Republicans nominated Michael Steele, Maryland's Lt. Governor and a dynamic presence on the stump, to run for Paul Sarbanes' open Senate seat. His connections to the black community has garnered him important endorsements that the Democrats assumed they would retain, including the same ministers that just endorsed Ehrlich. Steele's entree has allowed his executive partner to gain the same endorsements in the heart of Baltimore, the power base for Maryland Democrats, among their most loyal voters -- up to now.

Maryland's Democrats badly miscalculated. O'Malley has lost his lead in the race, according to Rasmussen, and now Ehrlich has walked away with key endorsements in O'Malley's backyard. The Democrats may have outsmarted themselves and torpedoed the national party's plans for power as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 5, 2006 9:36 AM

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