Friday, September 24, 2010

Bob Ehrlich, By The Numbers

Bob Ehrlich won his race for governor in 2002 because he racked up majorities in six suburban counties sizable enough to offset Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s victories in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

These counties, and Ehrlich’s 2002 margin of victory, were Howard (55 percent), Anne Arundel (65 percent), Harford (74 percent), Baltimore County (61 percent), Frederick (66 percent) and Carroll (79 percent).

Further, Ehrlich’s margin of victory in Baltimore County (nearly 63,000 votes) accounts for nearly his entire statewide victory margin (more than 66,000 votes).

Four years later, Ehrlich won five out of these six counties, but by more anemic margins. He underperformed in Frederick (60 percent), Harford (63 percent), Carroll (70 percent), Anne Arundel (57 percent) and Baltimore (51 percent) while losing Howard (49 percent).

As Ehrlich lost ground in these and other counties he won in 2002, Martin O’Malley improved upon Lieutenant Governor Townsend’s performance in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – but not, curiously enough, in Baltimore City.

Now, with the Ehrlich-O’Malley rematch set, it is clear that the races outcome hinges to some extent on Ehrlich’s performance in each of these jurisdictions. No one doubts that he will run the table on all of them with the possible exception of Howard. But the real question is, will his margins be closer to 2002 or 2006?

Of all these, Baltimore County seems like Ehrlich’s best opportunity to maximize his performance. Ehrlich is clearly winning the sign war in his home county. Moreover, O’Malley was held to a 76 percent primary performance in the county by two no-name opponents. Without Jim Smith managing O’Malley’s county campaign this time, the moment seems right for Ehrlich to poll in the mid-to-high 50s.

Harford County is another prime opportunity for Ehrlich to improve over 2006. Republicans dominate the county, which now has a GOP majority in terms of registration. Further, Ehrlich represented it in Congress for eight years and remains a popular figure there, so a performance north of 70 percent is a realistic possibility.

Republican-leaning Anne Arundel County, where Ehrlich now lives, is also a prime growth opportunity for the Ehrlich campaign – assuming the slots referendum doesn’t adversely factor into the mix somehow.

Carroll County should treat Ehrlich well, too. It is rural, agrarian, and very Republican. Leveraging the county’s social conservatism, Brian Murphy won one in four votes during the recent primary. Ehrlich will win Carroll big, but how big depends on his ability to generate enthusiasm for his own campaign among Murphy supporters.

The last two counties are a little harder to forecast.

Since Ehrlich's first win there eight years ago, Frederick County’s demographics have changed as it has become a bedroom community for the District of Columbia. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain only beat President Obama there by a point. I still think Ehrlich wins it comfortably. As for winning 66 percent again, it is worth noting that was the exact result he got against Brian Murphy in the county's primary.

Of the five, Howard County is the biggest tossup.  The county has drifted to the left in recent years. President Obama carried it by 20 points in 2008. Democratic County Executive Ken Ulman is a popular figure who appears to be cruising to reelection.  Winning 55 percent there again may be a tall order for Ehrlich.

For a Republican to win statewide in Maryland, a perfect alignment of circumstances is necessary. Ehrlich must take each of these counties by super-majorities as a prerequisite of winning. Right now, it certainly seems possible, but implausible. Maryland 2010 is just a different place than Maryland 2002. And, Martin O’Malley isn’t Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

No comments:

Post a Comment