Monday, September 25, 2006

Ridiculous Baltimore Sun Headline

On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun ran a story with the strange headline "Governor's race tight: Poll shows O'Malley holding a slight lead over Ehrlich". The headline was positively bizarre because the story contained the following information:

O'Malley, a Democrat, has a 6-percentage-point lead among likely voters, 50 percent to 44 percent, about the same margin he held over the Republican incumbent in July.
One would think "tightening" would imply a substantially smaller lead by O'Malley rather than "about the same." Moreover, incumbents rarely trail challengers in gubernatorial races unless they are in deep trouble. Close analysis of the poll contains even worse news for Ehrlich:
O'Malley has the solid support of his party's base. Liberals back him overwhelmingly - 81 percent to 11 percent - and Democrats back him by a 70 percent to 19 percent margin.

But he also retains a 15 percentage point lead among moderate voters, the sort who abandoned the Democratic Party to support Ehrlich in 2002.

Another positive sign for the mayor is that he holds a 17 percentage point lead among frequent voters, the ones most likely to come to the polls if turnout is low, as it was in this month's primary.
The Sun touts that Ehrlich has strong support from his base too. While O'Malley does better among liberals than Democrats, Ehrlich fares better among Republicans than conservatives:
Likely voters who identify themselves as conservatives back Ehrlich 73 percent to 19 percent, and Republicans support him by an 81 percent to 12 percent spread.
Ehrlich has been running a barrage of advertisements in the Baltimore media market designed to restore the lead he had in 2002 in the region. It hasn't worked. Indeed, the worst news for Ehrlich in the Sun poll is regarding his supposed base in Baltimore County:
Last time, Ruppersberger said, Ehrlich won the county by more than 20 percentage points. If he wins by only 10 this time, Ruppersberger said, he will lose the race.

Ehrlich said at a recent campaign stop that his goal for the county is 60 percent - "The first lady says 65," he joked. But the Sun poll shows he's now leading there by just 5 percentage points, 46 percent to 41 percent. At this point in 2002, the Sun poll found he was leading in the county 58 percent to 31 percent.

The new poll shows Ehrlich and O'Malley are in a statistical tie in the Baltimore region, which includes Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll and Harford counties - as well as the city. Apart from Baltimore City, Ehrlich carried each of those jurisdictions by wide margins in 2002.
Ehrlich is in deep trouble. His advertising blitz in the Baltimore media market has utterly failed to shift public opinion. Public opinion in elections tends to be like hardening concrete with voters getting more difficult to shift as Election Day approaches unless something major occurs. Ehrlich showed a lot of bravado saying that defeating Peter Franchot for Comptroller was a major priority. He better save his own skin first.

So far, Ehrlich has yet to generate either the support or the enthusiasm which led to his becoming the first Republican governor in a generation. While Ehrlich is far more popular than Bush, the president's unpopularity cannot help him. Indeed, loathing for Bush fires up Democrats even as it discourages Republicans. Moreover, O'Malley has already proven himself a stronger campaigner than Townsend.

Still, O'Malley has work to do. The Republican turnout machine is now far better than that of the Democrats. Ehrlich certainly whipped Townsend in turning out his base in 2002. O'Malley needs to assure not only that he wins Montgomery and Prince George's, portions of the state where he is not well known, but motivates all of those loyal Democrats, some of whom may be discouraged by the problems at the polls on primary day, to get out and vote. Moreover, Ehrlich remains well-liked so it may be harder to stir up Democrats to turn up to vote him out. After all, Bush is on the ballot.

Ehrlich is in serious trouble. But it isn't over until it's over.