Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fiastro Follow-Up

Last night I had a good conversation with new Baltimore County GOP Chairman John Fiastro, who engaged me over my recent blog posting about his proposed resolution seeking a vote of no confidence in RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.

My conversation with Fiastro – which, admittedly, probably should have occurred prior to my original posting, but didn’t when a game of “Telephone” broke out between me and several other activists immediately before Thanksgiving – confirmed what I have always known about him: He is a decent, smart guy trying to build the party in very unfavorable circumstances. 

He laid out a solid case against Priebus’s reelection: Romney defeated, seats in both houses of Congress lost, monies successfully raised yet questionably spent, Maryland neglected by the RNC yet again.

I got the sense that Fiastro fully understands the reality of the situation in that Priebus – who claims to have the support of 130 of 168 RNC members and has no declared opposition – is likely to be reelected regardless of what happens at the MDGOP convention this weekend. But, it is clear that Fiastro feels strongly that taking a stand – and, by doing so, perhaps serving as the pebble in the water which eventually grows into a wave of change – is still the right thing to do.

To this I say…fair enough.

I’m not averse to the state central committee passing a resolution expressing dissatisfaction with Priebus’s leadership, provided that it reflects the reality that the state party and its RNC representatives likely will still have to work with him during the next two years.  Apparently there may be another resolution in the works which would focus more on the record and reforms rather than on Priebus personally.

Fiastro is a reasonable guy trying to do the right thing, so I’m hopeful that he and some of the other central committee members and activists who are understandably unhappy with Priebus’s record and concerned over the party's future will come together and pass something everyone can live with in the end.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On the Priebus Resolution...

John Fiastro, Jr. – the newly elected Chairman of the Baltimore County GOP Central Committee – is a good guy. Strategic, hard-working, and very much a big tent thinker, I expect him to do good things when it comes to building the party in my home county.

Chairman Fiastro plans to introduce a resolution at the party’s winter convention, which occurs November 30 – December 1, 2012 in Howard County, in effect directing the state’s three members of the Republican National Committee to oppose the reelection of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, who is seeking a second, two-year term despite the party’s dismal performance during the 2012 election cycle.

Fiastro cited an emerging sentiment among county party leaders that the RNC needs new leadership, as well as the RNC’s neglect of Maryland, as the reasons he is pushing the resolution.

Now, there’s no need to sugar coat things: The GOP received a major ass-kicking on November 6th. A presidential election which was supposed to be close wasn’t – especially in terms of the Electoral College. A Senate that once looked like it might flip to GOP control didn’t, partially due to candidates who chose to speak sympathetically about rape instead of the economy.  And, the party shed seats in the House, including one in Maryland, making its once formidable House majority seem fragile.

In light of these events, it is not surprising that rank and file partisans would be looking to mete out blame. We’ve seen it here in Maryland with Chairman Alex Mooney, so it makes sense that Chairman Priebus might draw ire as well.

But as understandable as the sentiments behind the resolution may be, I see it as a questionable exercise for one primary reason: Chairman Priebus is already a dead lock cinch to be reelected.

Priebus announced that 130 of the 168 members of the RNC have already endorsed his reelection, and agreed to let their names be published. Further, no serious challenger to Priebus has emerged. Additionally, to my knowledge, Maryland’s is the only state party contemplating such an anti-Priebus resolution.

This sense of inevitability surrounding Priebus may seem strange, especially given the general state of unhappiness among Republicans right now. Then again, the party deposed a chairman with a winning record in 2010, and the country just convincingly reelected a president with persistently high unemployment for the first time since 1936. Part of me is starting to wonder if the old rules still apply.

Realistically speaking, I’m forced to wonder what the resolution will actually accomplish. Binding the state’s RNC representatives to vote against an RNC chairman with no opposition and super-majority support seems like a hollow gesture. And, while deep blue Maryland is not a priority for the RNC as far as resources are concerned, passing this resolution will transform Chairman Priebus’s attitude towards Maryland from one of neglect to outright hostility.

Perhaps most importantly, it won’t bind anyone to do anything. Balloting for the RNC chairman’s race is done in secret, so the state’s three RNC members – Nicolee Ambrose, Louis Pope, and Alex Mooney – are free to vote their conscience.

Holding party leaders like Priebus accountable for the election results is a desirable objective. Perhaps the MDGOP can best serve that end by passing a resolution identifying deficiencies in Priebus’s leadership and pressing for specific reforms.  By comparison, simply antagonizing a chairman who’s going to be in office for two more years strikes me as counterproductive at best, and self-destructive at worst.

One of my Facebook friends likened Fiastro to the protester who famously stood in front of the tanks during the Tiananmen Square uprising.  Yes, what that man did was heroic. But, the protesters were crushed and that man was never heard from again.

The lesson here for state Republicans is clear: Taking a stand is noble, but doing so when you actually have a realistic chance of achieving success is optimal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Should Maryland Republicans Do About Alex Mooney?

Looking back upon recent history, it seems that chairs of the Maryland Republican Party have as much likelihood of success, or longevity, as drummers in the fictional rock group Spinal Tap.

High rollin' John Kane served as party chairman during much of Bob Ehrlich’s term as governor, when the party achieved some fundraising success and served as an extension of the Ehrlich political machine. When he left the position after Ehrlich's 2006 defeat, the party was largely bankrupt, partly due to Kane's free-spending ways, and its partisans demoralized.

Veterinarian Jim Pelura then took the party’s helm during highly unfavorable circumstances. Amid party infighting and continuing complaints about finances, he walked away, frustrated, from the job before the expiration of his term.

Then former Ehrlich Planning Secretary Audrey Scott rode in to save the day. Mrs. Scott claimed to have achieved great fundraising success during her year as chair, almost solely due to the largess of then-RNC chairman Michael Steele. But Mrs. Scott’s deficiencies – including inflated fundraising totals, a failure to recruit a candidate for Attorney General, and her insistence at directing resources at the expense of other candidates to Andy Harris (who was doing perfectly fine raising money on his own) and Bob Ehrlich (who lost to Governor O’Malley by 15 points during their 2010 rematch) – were exposed when she ran, unsuccessfully, to represent the state on the Republican National Committee, usually a gimme job for former party chairs.

Then former Senator Alex Mooney won the job in 2010. I nominally supported Mooney that year. While I saw him as a clean break from the party’s recent, Ehrlich-centric past, I also wondered if he wanted the job, or simply a platform from which to carry on his political ambitions.

Now, in light of the MDGOP’s disastrous election returns, the hanging party has ridden into town in search of Mooney.

The gentlemen at Red Maryland laid out the case for removing Mooney from office. They make some very valid points, including the MDGOP’s humiliating shut out among the three ballot questions which partisans worked so diligently to get on the ballot, yet lacked any semblance of a strategy to actually get passed (I blogged about the ballot initiative debacle here).

As I ponder Mooney’s fate, I find myself asking two questions.

First, if the party dumps Mooney, who will the next chairman be?

Hierarchically speaking, First Vice Chair Diana Waterman is next in line. I don’t know Mrs. Waterman personally, but her reputation is that of a loyal, diligent, hard-working, devoted partisan. However, she is very much an establishment figure, and is aligned with the Audrey Scott wing of the party. Elevating her will likely not produce the kind of sweeping change many partisans are demanding.

Many cite the possibility of a sizzle candidate emerging, such as 2012 Senate nominee Dan Bongino. After all, Bongino racked up some impressive fundraising totals due to the efforts of fundraiser Hillary Foster Pennington, and built a grassroots network of 3000 people across the state.

Such pondering leads me to the second question: If Mooney goes, who worth having would actually want the job, especially given the recent history of infighting and rebellion and the party’s seemingly grim future prospects?

Given these challenges, can a new chairman personally make things better, or will he/she simply follow his/her immediate predecessors onto the scaffold after another disastrous election cycle?

The case against Mooney has several different elements, but it is clear that the failure of the ballot initiatives is the tipping point in terms of people demanding his ouster.

Indeed, Chairman Mooney should have played a traffic cop function with respect to the petition drives, discouraging those that lacked the strategy or resources to succeed during the ballot phase from moving forward.

He didn’t. And, as a result, the party is in a worse position than if the questions had never appeared on the ballot.

But, in all fairness, he was not singlehandedly responsible for getting them there. Neil Parrott, Tony Campbell, and others who blithely used the process as some kind of silver bullet have some things to answer for, too.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, while I am open to replacing Mooney, I don’t see anyone among the current crop of party leaders who would likely do a better job, assuming they even wanted it.

Chairman Mooney stated to me that he "doesn't think" he is running in 2014 for the 6th Congressional District seat just captured by Democrat John Delaney. If accurate, that removes one of the biggest criticisms partisans have had about him during the past two years.

Absent a consensus alternative arising, the members of the state Republican Central Committee may have to resign themselves to demanding answers and accountability from Mooney, and extracting from him a plan of corrective action.

That plan of corrective action might also include examining the extent to which the MDGOP’s Executive Director, David Ferguson, needs to be held accountable, too.

Mooney is a hands-off manager, and some of Ferguson’s operational decisions – including planning and executing a Red White and Blue fundraising dinner which netted only $8,000 for the party, and his rumored alliance with controversial GOP political consultant Lawrence Scott – has drawn criticism among some central committee members.

When I talked to Chairman Mooney at the party’s spring convention he said to me, “I’m not perfect, but at least I’m trying to do the right thing.”

I believe that.

Now, it is up to him to convince partisans that he’s the right person to lead the party out of its present moment of darkness. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The GOP and Questions 4 - 6: What Happened?

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, everyone on my block wanted a Big Wheel – plastic, orange-reddish, low-riding, three wheel vehicles built specifically to appeal to boys. These were popular toys during the Evel Knieval era, where every boy fancied himself a daredevil.

I thought of the Big Wheel as I watched the debacle surrounding the MDGOP’s attempt to repeal three laws passed by the legislature and placed on the ballot by opponents in accordance with the state’s referendum process.

In the case of three of these laws, the requisite number of signatures were gathered in part using the new tool (in the case of Question 7, regarding expanded gambling, it was placed on the ballot through legislative mandate).

Opponents used the tool to gather and delivered far more signatures than the 55,000 or so that were needed to get the state’s civil marriage equality law and the DREAM Act on the ballot. Indeed, opponents of the state’s gerrymandered congressional redistricting map narrowly and unexpectedly used the tool to add it to the ballot as well.

Opponents of the laws hailed as an exciting new resource which the political minority in Maryland can use to challenge the extreme agenda of a runaway political establishment in Annapolis.  

But, of course, had its limitations. Getting a measure on the ballot means very little if no strategy exists for when it gets there.

And yet, unfortunately, that is what the opponents of the various referred laws did. They used very successfully, but eventually ran into the same constraints I did with my Big Wheel: You can take it up and down the driveway, but you’re going to need a bigger vehicle if you really want to get anywhere.

I find the Democrats' running the table on these three petition-driven ballot questions to be one of the biggest ignominies the state’s beleaguered GOP has ever experienced.

The state GOP had a case to make – especially about the DREAM Act, an example of the state expanding entitlements while taxpayers are being asked to contribute even more.

Indeed, opposition to the DREAM Act was visible during the signature gathering phase of the process. But no effective or coherent case for its repeal was ever articulated by its opponents during the ballot phase. Meanwhile, MDDEMS, unions, and other allies threw resources and messaging support behind reaffirming the law, which passed by a 58-42 percent margin.

Meanwhile, the state’s congressional redistricting map – ridiculed for its gerrymandered nature by federal judges, one of whom liked the shape of the torturous 3rd Congressional District to a pterodactyl – was a slam dunk, passing 63 – 37 percent. Former Baltimore County GOP Chairman Tony Campbell did his best to spread the word, and some reform-minded Montgomery County Democrats seized the mantle, but it is hard to get people to care about arcane process issues without the resources needed to educate them as to why they should.  

As for marriage equality, which passed by a 52 – 48 percent margin, the issue breaks more along generational and secular-evangelical lines than it does party loyalties. Majorities affirmed the law in two GOP counties – Frederick and Anne Arundel - and Question 6 outpolled President Obama in several other GOP-leaning counties.

So by racing to get all these initiatives onto the ballot, did state GOP leaders bite off more than they could chew?

Well, duh.

The MDGOP remains a cash-strapped organization – its annual Red White and Blue fundraising dinner last summer netted only $8,000 for the party coffers – and the party itself is rife with intramural rivalries. While the advent of the tool made the referendum process seem seductively simple, it is clear that the party did not have the resources, organization, or manpower to coordinate simultaneously three successful campaigns against the referred laws.

Nor, in the end, were they able to find reliable surrogates to do so.

But by proceeding full steam ahead with the doomed referendum campaigns, the MDGOP helped reaffirm, loudly and publicly, the MDDEMs primacy, the state’s own strong liberal leanings, and the minority party’s essential irrelevance in Maryland.

In other words, they made the situation worse than if they had not bothered with the referendum process at all.

Instead, party leaders should have forgotten about the map, treated marriage equality as a matter of conscience, and focused whatever time and resources it could to selling the case against the DREAM Act. A strong education campaign focusing on fiscal responsibility and the need for national immigration reform to occur first might have yielded a closer, less embarrassing result.

Unfortunately, state Republicans likely will not get a second chance to achieve a better result in the future using their new toy, as Governor O’Malley and state Democrats now speak openly about “reforming” the petitions process, presumably to prevent the use of Internet tools like ever again.

I don’t remember what happened to my Big Wheel, and I expect will achieve a similar fate. But one thing is clear: Maryland Republicans have another wave of self-assessment, accountability, and (hopefully) reform headed their way. Let’s hope it is a constructive experience, and let’s hope it makes the party stronger headed into 2014.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

GOP State Delegate Gail Bates: "Once lost, Audrey, (respect) is hard to regain."

Yesterday I blogged about the "Republican Voter Guide" which former MDGOP Chairmen Audrey Scott and Michael Steele sent to partisans across the state.

Here is what GOP Delegate Gail Bates (R-Howard County, District 9A) had to say about it in an open letter to Mrs. Scott on her own Facebook page. No editorial commentary or added snark on my part is necessary. The delegate expresses herself just fine.

To Audrey Scott:

The "Republican Voter Guide" is grossly misleading. 37 Republicans in the House voted against the bill. My constituents are shocked and disappointed to be told Republicans support gaming as if it was an official position. You have dishonored those of us who opposed this farce when we went on the record and voted against the bill. There are so many reasons to oppose both the bill & the process, only to be thrown under the bus by people I previously respected. Once lost, Audrey, it is hard to regain.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Guide: Coming to a Mailbox Near You

Something called the “Republican Voter Guide” has been turning up in the mailboxes of voters across the state of Maryland. The mailer, which features smiling images of two high profile PG County political alums and former MD GOP Chairmen – Michael Steele and Audrey Scott – offers a series of “recommendations” on how people should vote on the seven ballot initiatives voters will decide on come Tuesday.

The piece talks about seven initiatives, but it’s really all about one: Question 7, the measure to permit a new casino to be built in Prince George’s County while allowing table games at the existing gambling centers. Steele and Scott sent a letter to state Republicans outlining their support for the measure – putting them at odds with the majority of their fellow Republicans.

In her recent Baltimore Sun piece, Marta Mossburg accuses Steele and Scott of, “repeat(ing) the Democratic Party lie that a new casino at National Harbor in Prince George's County will ‘provide hundreds of millions in new revenue for education each year, without raising taxes.’"

Mossburg also had the same basic question as I did upon learning of Steele and Scott’s advocacy – namely, why they are doing it? She reports that she approached each of them to see if they were being paid by MGM, Question 7’s principal advocate, but they did not respond to her inquiries.

Still sources tell me political consultant Lawrence Scott is working the pro-Question 7 side of the issues, and is trying to line up support for the measure. That explains Audrey’s involvement. Also, the authority line on the Guide reads “Republican Leaders Referendum Guide,Michelle Corkadel, Treasurer.” Corkadel is an activist and longtime political associate of the Scotts.

Further, I should add that sources in DC told me that former Governor Bob Ehrlich was also approached by MGM to play a pro-Question Seven advocacy role, and declined. His stated reason: He did not want to do anything which could result in political benefit to Governor Martin O’Malley.

Anyway, we’re well into the silly season as far as politics is concerned, so the Guide should be taken in that context. Just keep in mind that, regardless of their past roles in the MDGOP, neither Steele nor Scott are speaking in an official capacity for the party.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Perilously Putting on My Prognosticator's Hat

Tis the season for political prognostication, and while I consider myself a fairly decent handicapper, I must admit that, in all my years of following politics, this is the most difficult political season to handicap.

So, I have been reluctant to make predictions given the volatility we’ve seen in the presidential race, and with the four contentious ballot questions Marylanders will be voting on next Tuesday.

Still, as Rocky Balboa said, “I gotta go out the way I gotta go out.” It is in that spirit that I’m going to take a stab at predicting the outcomes of some of the key races. I’m perfectly aware I may be eating a plateful of crow come Wednesday morning, but why not have a little fun in the meantime?

In a nutshell, I think Mitt Romney wins, the makeup of Maryland’s congressional delegation remains unchanged except for the fact that John Delaney will defeat Roscoe Bartlett, and the three laws and the Prince George’s County casino expansion proposal which are at the heart of the four ballot initiatives are all defeated. Here is my rationale for each call.


In dissecting the presidential campaign, the core question to ask oneself is, “Is this election going to be another 2004, or another 1980?”

For much of the year I tended to see it as the former: A lackluster president narrowly elected over a lackluster challenger. But with Romney revitalizing his image, and the economy again taking center stage, I can now see a 1980 scenario unfolding.

During the first half of the year, I had President Obama at about an 80 percent favorite for reelection based on three factors: 1) the sense that, despite lingering high unemployment, there was a sense of sustained positive momentum in the economy; 2) the Republican candidates competing for the nomination were universally underwhelming; and 3) the defeat of an incumbent president – which has only occurred three times in the past 80 years – is a relative rarity in American politics.

During the second half of the year, two of these factors changed. Job growth slowed to a crawl, and while there is evidence that it has resumed, legitimate questions about the sustainability of the recovery endure. Further, Mitt Romney – who stumbled to the GOP nomination amid a field of deeply-flawed candidates, and missed an opportunity to define himself at the party convention last August – finally got his breakthrough opportunity during the presidential debates in October. Reasonable people can disagree over which candidate won which debate (with the exception of the first one), but it is clear that Romney emerged from the series of debates looking credibly presidential.

Obama retains the advantages inherent in incumbency, as well as his personal likability. Still, it should be mentioned that only one Democratic president since FDR has been reelected, and that was with a plurality and not a majority vote because of the presence of a third party candidate. Further, no president (with the exception of FDR) has been reelected with unemployment at or above 7.9 percent. So if Obama is reelected, he will, in that sense, be defying historical winds yet again.

When I look at the messages which the Obama campaign has been emphasizing during the campaign, I see evidence of weakness. When the economy dipped in the middle of the year, Obama was deprived of his “sustained positive momentum” case for reelection, and was forced to go with a “Mitt is a bad guy” approach, instead. That was the core message in many of the ads which saturated the airwaves in battleground states through much of the summer and into the fall. Romney retroactively inoculated himself from many of these attacks after the debates, effectively reshuffling the campaign deck in the process.

Then,the Obama campaign began employing more distractive tactics, emphasizing Romney’s alleged social conservatism (wheeling out women’s health and gay rights for their wedge issue value), elevating micro issues such as PBS funding and Romney's 47 percent comment (which did not prove to be the silver bullet some of the left clearly thought it would be), and manufacturing gaffes like Romney’s “binders full of women” comment in order to steer the campaign debate away from the economy. As far as I can tell, these attempts to change the subject have not worked, and the persistently bad economy is sticking to Obama the same way it has previous presidents seeking reelection.

As for Romney, his fundamental weakness as a candidate is also his biggest strength. People see him as a chameleon-like figure who ran for U. S. Senate as a liberal in 1994, for governor of Massachusetts as a moderate in 2002, for president as a conservative in 2008, and for president as a hybrid of each this year. This may explain why he took longer to capture the GOP nomination that was clearly going to be his, and some of his difficulties connecting with voters. But it also explains why the Obama campaign's attempts to paint him as a closet ring wing fanatic have failed, too. 

Of course, a presidential election consists of 51 separate elections, and many respected prognosticators have concluded that Obama is a near lock for reelection when one looks at the Electoral College math and battleground states in which polling allegedly shows Obama leading. But I question the veracity of some of these polls for three reasons.

First, many polls assume a turnout model which oversamples Democrats. For example, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Obama leading in Florida and Ohio. In Florida, the poll showed Obama with a 1 point lead using a D+7 sample. In 2008, turnout was only D+3. In Ohio, the Quinnipiac poll showed Obama with a five point lead with a D+8 sample. Most observers predict an even split among partisans voting in Ohio this year. Overall, polling generally shows GOP voters are far more motivated to vote this year than in 2008, causing me to conclude that some of these estimates of Democratic turnout in 2012 are questionable at best.

Second, Romney is showing strength in a voting bloc that Obama carried in 2008: early voters. Politico reports that Obama seems to be leading, but not by the margin he did in 2008, when John McCain actually won the majority of voters who cast ballots on Election Day. A Gallup poll found Romney up 52 – 46 percent among early voters.

Third, in the vast majority of polls, Obama is polling in the mid- to high-forties, and seems unable to break the 50.1 percent threshold. Experience dictates that undecideds tend to break for challengers rather than incumbents, giving Romney more potential for upward mobility than Obama. 

So, the bottom line is, if you believe much of the state polling, Obama appears poised to win. If you do not and are looking at history and some of the intangibles in this race – for example, 30,000 people attending a rally for Romney in Ohio – you see Romney’s path to victory. I find myself in the latter camp.

Congress, Sixth District

This one is a real snoozer. I think Bartlett would have had a better chance if State Senator Rob Garagiola had been his opponent, because Bartlett could have waged a campaign by proxy against Martin O’Malley, Mike Miller, and the establishmentarians in Annapolis. But Bartlett drew the short straw when his opponent turned out to be soft-spoken, moderate, self-financing financier John Delaney. The Bartlett campaign is citing polls showing both candidates in the low 40s as evidence that the campaign is a toss-up. Everyone knows that undecided voters tend to break for challengers, so for Congressman Bartlett to be mired in the low 40s is a sign of weakness, not competitiveness.

Question 4: Tuition breaks for illegal immigrants

I blogged previously about this measure, and the reasons why I thought it would, and should, ultimately go down. 

The Sun’s Annie Linskey reported during the petition’s signature gathering phase at one point that 30 percent of the signers were Democrats, including 56 percent in Baltimore City, 39 percent in Baltimore County, and 38 percent in Prince George’s County.

Based on this experience, there seems an opportunity for a coalition of Republicans, conservative Democrats, and African Americans to come together to defeat the measure. However, recent Sun polling found support for the DREAM Act narrowly leading 47 – 45 percent statewide. I still think Question 4 is defeated, albeit by a narrow margin, because of greater passion among the bill’s opponents than its supporters (evident during the signature gathering phase), and because there may be a “Bradley Effect” at work here. 

Working in Question 4’s favor is the actual wording which appears on the ballot, which references helping veterans and children and never uses the phrase “illegal immigrant.”

If the DREAM Act survives, then blame rests with the state’s Republican Party, which worked aggressively to collect signatures to get the measure on the ballot, then largely abandoned it once it got there. Republicans have generally treated the Maryland Petitions signature gathering tool like a child’s new tricycle. It’s fun to take it up and down the driveway, but you’re going to need a bigger vehicle if you really want to get somewhere.

Question 5: Redistricting Map

The state’s congressional redistricting map is an example of muscle politics in action, a naked attempt by the state’s ruling Democrats to bump off a GOP congressman and protect its own incumbents into perpetuity. 

Still, I wonder if anyone really cares.

Again, the state GOP deserves some fault here for dropping the ball once they succeeded in unexpectedly getting the map onto the ballot. If this measure has any life at all, it is because Comptroller Peter Franchot and other reformist Montgomery County Democrats have seized the mantle.

You would figure that a redistricting map crafted by Democrats in a two-to-one majority Democratic state would glide to victory. Still, I think voters fall into two categories: People who hate this map, and people who don’t care. I think it passes because the people who hate the map will support its repeal, and those who don’t care may be inclined to undervote.

Question 6: Marriage Equality

I blogged previously about the reasons why I support the state’s marriage equality law, and why I think it will likely be defeated, as 32 similar measures were previously in other states

California’s gay marriage law was defeated in 2008 due to heavy opposition among religious black and Hispanic voters. Black voters comprise 40 percent of the state’s Democratic electorate, and while President Obama’s support for gay marriage caused a spike in support among blacks according to earlier polls, the recent Sun poll finds that blacks now oppose it by a 50 – 42 percent margin.

I think this is another issue where the Bradley Effect may be a factor in some of the polling data. I also think this may be an issue in which religious black voters may be more inclined to listen to their pastors than the president.

Question 7: Expanded Gambling

The Sun poll has the proposal to create a new casino in Prince George’s County and bring table games to the state’s other gambling centers losing resoundingly by a 54 – 39 percent margin. I think that poll is accurate. Despite the oceans of money which have been spent on this issue, I believe neither side in this war of the casino owners has succeeded in getting its message out. All voters have heard is a confusing din. If gambling loses, I think it will have less to do with the substance of the proposal as much as the fact that the two sides have effectively cancelled each other out, and voters are voting no as a default to preserve the status quo.

So, those are my picks. If I am wrong on any of these – especially the first one – I know I will be hearing from some of you. But that’s fair. In the meantime, don’t forget to vote. Your vote always matters…even in deep blue Maryland.