Friday, July 2, 2010

In Blue Maryland, O'Malley Threatened by Growing GOP Wave

A new poll from Magellan Strategies shows Republican Bob Ehrlich holds a 3 point lead over incumbent Governor Martin O’Malley, 46% to 43%. Another 4% of voters prefer “another candidate”, and 7% are undecided. This poll comes on the heels of a Rasmussen poll that showed the race tied at 45%. Since announcing his candidacy, Ehrlich has steadily improved his position, while O'Malley has been losing ground.

In a prior post I showed that the key for Republican candidates in Maryland is not reduced turnout among Democratic voters, but rather a poor performance among them by the Democratic candidate and increased turnout by Republican voters. In 1994, Republicans came within 6,000 votes of winning the gubernatorial race because the Democratic candidate's vote total was only 80.5% of all Democrats voting. In contrast, the Republican's vote total equaled 155.6% of all Republicans voting - the Democratic candidate lost a lot of Democrats and the Republican candidate claimed them.  The scenario was nearly identical in 2002 when Ehrlich won the race.

The new poll shows O'Malley winning 64% of Democrats to Ehrlich's 25%. Among Republicans, Ehrlich wins 90% to O'Malley's 7%. The two essentially split the Independent vote with O'Malley at 38% and Ehrlich at 34%. 

What would those numbers mean when applied to actual voter registration data? In may 2010, there were 1,929,966 Democrats and 902,222 Republicans in the state, with another 574,979 essentially Independent. If Maryland had 100% turnout and the each man received the share of the vote reported by the new poll, O'Malley would win the race by a narrow 27,000 vote margin.

Of course, 100% turnout will not happen. The average turnout for registered Democrats in gubernatorial elections since 1994 has been 61.6%, turnout for Republicans has averaged 64.4%, and Independent voters have average 43%. Add those assumptions to my prior vote estimate and O'Malley's 27,000 vote victory margin becomes a 9,000 vote margin of loss.

But I'm not done... in the strong Republican years of 1994 and 2002, Democratic turnout was close to the 4 election average at 61.95%, but GOP turnout was higher - 66.15%. Independent turnout was unchanged. Apply those turnout assumptions to the Magellan poll and Ehrlich wins by 19,000 votes.

So O'Malley by 27,000 or Ehrlich by 19,000? It all depends on how many Democrats ultimately defect to Ehrlich and how many Republicans turnout. If the 2010 election in Maryland follows the pattern of 1994 or 2002 then Ehrlich will make a return trip to Annapolis. Unfortunately for Martin O'Malley, all indications are that 2010 will look very much like 1994 and 2002. As political guru Charlie Cook wrote today - "A GOP Wave is On the Way...."