Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Poll: O'Malley Leads Ehrlich by Nine

A new Gonzales poll shows Governor Martin O'Malley leading former Governor Bob Ehrlich by nine points in a hypothetical rematch. But that is not all it says.

1. The economy remains the dominant issue, with 54% of poll respondents picking it as their top priority. The next leading issues are health care (11%), taxes (10%), the budget deficit (8%) and education (7%).

2. O'Malley's job approval rating is 46%, virtually unchanged since September 2008. O'Malley's trough came in March 2008, right after the tax-hiking special session. The Governor owns that tax hike since he traveled across the state stumping for it. O'Malley's approval rating among men (42%) is tied with his disapproval rating among men (42%). Women approve of O'Malley by a 50-30% margin. Twenty-one percent of Democrats disapprove of the Governor and could provide fertile ground for Ehrlich.

3. O'Malley leads Ehrlich by 48-39%, not much different than his 49-38% lead in September 2009. Gonzales points out that Ehrlich's current percentage of Democrats (16%) is much lower than his Democratic support in 2002, when he carried 30% of them. If the economy is the top worry of voters and O'Malley's weakest point was right after the 2007 tax hikes, could Ehrlich approach his 2002 level by linking those tax hikes to the recession?

4. President Obama's approval rating is in free fall though it is still over 50%. Among whites, he is only plus seven (46% approve and 39% disapprove), a statistically insignificant difference from zero. This is bad news for Congressman Frank Kratovil.

O'Malley's nine-point lead should not be overly comforting to the Democrats. Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend held a 15-point lead over Congressman Bob Ehrlich in January 2002 but still lost. O'Malley and Ehrlich both have more name recognition than either of the 2002 candidates since each has now served one term as Governor, so it may be harder to move their numbers than it was for two lesser-knowns. But 2002 did not have an overwhelming state-level issue like the economy and tonight's special election in Massachusetts creates real worry that President Obama's performance may not be helpful to O'Malley in November.