A new poll from the Washington Post offers a little something for Governor Martin O'Malley and former Governor Bob Ehrlich. The topline numbers are likely those that the O'Malley campaign will hope that everyone notices. According to the Post poll O'Malley leads Ehrlich among registered voters by a 49% to 41% margin - a nice 8 point lead. O'Malley is likely to direct attention to the finding that his approval rating has reached a record high of 58% and registered voters believe that O'Malley better understands their problems by a margin of 41% to 31%.
But Bob Ehrlich need not fret - Ehrlich can argue that in a state where Democrats enjoy a 30 point voter registration advantage the Democratic incumbent governor should be ahead among registered voters. What truly matters is where the race stands among actual voters. The Post poll finds that O'Malley and Ehrlich are deadlocked at 47% each among those voters who are certain to vote. Additionally, voters were asked to rank the issues most important to them - The Economy, Education, Maryland's Budget Deficit, and Taxes were the top four issues. O'Malley and Ehrlich are tied among voters most concerned with the economy, O'Malley leads among those concerned about education, and Ehrlich wins among voters concerned about the budget and taxes.
Ehrlich's advantage on the budget issue should worry O'Malley. Maryland's general fund budget has actually shrunk under O'Malley, whereas it increased by nearly 40% under Ehrlich. Certainly the economic climate was different, but if O'Malley isn't trusted to manage a budget that he has decreased then he has a serious message problem. There is little doubt that the economy, the budget, and taxes will be significant issues come November - O'Malley needs to blunt Ehrlich's early advantage on those issues.
Ehrlich and O'Malley should both be worried by the finding that 45% of registered voters are not satisfied with their current slate of candidates and wish that there were other options. Full poll results can be found here.