Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quick and Dirty Analysis

It's late at night but it's election night so I can't resist giving my quick take on some of the results.

Impact of Montgomery Election Fiasco
We are very fortunate in the U.S. Senate and Attorney General races in that the winners are relatively clear. Cardin leads Mfume by 46 to 37% and Gansler leads Simms by 55 to 43% with around 2/3 of the precincts reporting. The election fiasco in Montgomery did not cause either of the Montgomery-preferred candidates to lose the Democratic nomination. Cardin faces a tough general election opponent; a post-election fight or doubt over the nomination would undoubtedly injure the party.

The Comptroller's race, however, may be an ugly mess. It is a close three-way race with 35% for Owens, 34% for Franchot, and 31% for Schaefer. Montgomery is Franchot's base; he currently trails statewide by less than 4000 votes. Franchot and his attorneys may well think Franchot would have won if so many people were not turned away from the polls in the morning if the final results follow the same pattern. However, I don't know what relief any court could grant Franchot. We will likely have to wait for provisional ballots to be counted in this race and in various lower-ballot races.

Gansler Won the AG Race in Prince George's
Simms received 43% of the statewide vote in his late bid for the attorney general's office compared to 55% for Gansler. Gansler leads Simms by 54 to 38% in Prince George's with over one-half of the precincts reporting--a margin very close to his statewide margin. Region trumped race in Prince George's. Gansler's assiduous courting of opinion makers and Prince George's voters paid off. The more cynical are suggesting that black politicians with statewide ambitions in Prince George's didn't want Simms to win for fear it might close off their opportunities.

Leggett's Historic Yet Ordinary Win in Montgomery
As a general rule, African Americans don't win many elections in jurisdictions less than 15% black. Leggett didn't just break this rule, he ran over it. At the current time, the Montgomery County Board of Elections reports Leggett trouncing Silverman with 61% of the vote. I imagine the returns could shift somewhat as returns continue to dribble in over the next week. However, Leggett has a solid lead right now.

The general election is a coronation of the Democrat nominee in Montgomery, so Leggett looks likely to become the first black county executive of Maryland's largest county. I suspect the press will underplay this achievement. Montgomery is a suburb and gets far less coverage than Washington even though it is far more populous and being elected county exec is like being elected mayor of a city with close to 1 million people. It is an achievement for both Montgomery and for Leggett.

At the same time, perhaps the real achievement is that it was such an ordinary election in which race was so rarely mentioned or really even a major undertone of the election. Leggett won because he was on the right side of the issues now. He is perceived as mildly more anti-development than Silverman when the County is an anti-development mood. Leggett was also just better liked than Silverman and had a long record of public service and winning elections in this county.

Jack Johnson Barely Hanging on in Prince George's
I still hold out hope that the Jackson jinx will kick in and Jack Johnson will lose to Rushern Baker. Prince George's has so much potential and deserves a better leader who will work to address the serious problems of this county rather than simply reward his friends and allies. Even if he loses, Baker has done an incredible job at turning a race expected to be a cakewalk for the incumbent into a real contest.

Steele Will Play the Race Card
Democrats have now nominated Anthony Brown for Lt. Governor. However, Steele who was also the only black on his party's statewide ticket will now claim that the losses by Simms and Mfume show that the Democrats take the black vote for granted but never reward it with high office. Leggett's stunning victory in heavily non-black Montgomery will only counter that impression so much. Steele will drag out his supposed victimization as a black Republican to persuade African Americans to vote for him. Steele may even attempt to revive the obviously false Oreo story as part of an effort to gain black votes.

Cardin needs to constantly remind voters of Steele's great love of George Bush and that his supposed independence is simply untrue. The man running against lobbyists is happy to accept campaign donations from them. He has been happy to ride Bush's coattails. Since Bush is incredibly unpopular among Maryland African Americans, the close support of Steele at the 2004 Republican Convention should be repeatedly highlighted.

Cardin should also encourage Steele to debate and hold lots of meetings. Cardin may be a bit steady and dull but Steele is a walking gaffe machine when he gets away from his handlers. He is bound to make some (more) incredible statements if you get him going. Still, it will be hard for Steele to top his comparison of stem-cell research to the Holocaust.