Monday, November 01, 2010

How Many Democrats Will Vote for Ehrlich?

Tomorrow’s gubernatorial contest between Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley will depend on two things: turnout and the percentage of Democrats voting for Ehrlich. We’ll address turnout in tomorrow’s election forecast. Today, we’ll focus on Ehrlich Democrats.

Bob Ehrlich, and any statewide candidate, needs to have Democratic votes to win. That’s because of the Democrats’ immense edge in voter registration. Democrats account for 56.4% of all voters eligible to vote in the general election, a percentage that has changed little in the last decade. Republicans account for 26.7% of all voters eligible to vote in the general election, down from 30.1% in May 2004.

How many Democrats are willing to vote for Ehrlich? Let’s look at the history of polling in the three gubernatorial races in which Ehrlich has participated. Not all polls release cross-tabulations, and many of the older ones are no longer online, but this is our best shot at a roundup.

Percentage of Democrats Supporting Ehrlich, 2002 Cycle

Gonzales, September 2001: 11%

Gonzales/Arscott, January 2002: 16%

Gonzales, July 2002: 18%

Gonzales, August 2002: 21%

Gonzales, September 2002: 24%

Gonzales, October 2002: 25%

Survey USA, November 2002: 29%

Ehrlich, who was then a Baltimore County Congressman, started this race with less name recognition than Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. But as the election season went on, his poll numbers went up – driven largely by steady gains among Democrats. The last Survey USA result, taken 48 hours before the election, reflects the current conventional wisdom that Ehrlich can win with 30% support among Democrats. Ehrlich defeated Townsend by 3.9 points.

Percentage of Democrats Supporting Ehrlich, 2006 Cycle

Gonzales, April 2006: 16%

Survey USA, September 2006: 16%

Survey USA, October 2006: 16%

Survey USA, November 2006: 18%

CNN Exit Poll, November 2006: 15%

Ehrlich stayed in the mid-teens among Democrats for most of the election season. Given that performance, he was unable to close the gap against Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley even with decent job approval ratings. O’Malley defeated Ehrlich by 6.5 points.

Percentage of Democrats Supporting Ehrlich, 2010 Cycle

Gonzales, January 2010: 16%

Magellan, July 2010: 25%

Public Policy Polling, July 2010: 21%

Gonzales, July 2010: 19%

Washington Post, September 2010: 10%

Gonzales, October 2010: 17%

Baltimore Sun, October 2010: 17%

Washington Post, October 2010: 7%

Two polls in July showed Ehrlich breaking 20% among Democrats. The Public Policy Polling survey showed Ehrlich trailing O’Malley by three points and claiming 21% support among Democrats. The Magellan poll showed him with a three-point edge over O’Malley and 25% support among Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Magellan works primarily for Republicans.) Since then, five polls have shown Ehrlich’s Democratic support varying between 7% and 19%. That’s in the neighborhood of his losing reelection campaign in 2006.

But 2010 is a wave year for the GOP. Can Ehrlich make it up in Republican turnout? We’ll find out tomorrow.