So I split for Hispaniola for half of a fortnight and I return to find Brown/Ulman up by only six over Hogan/Rutherford.
I can only assume some as of yet unnamed madness enveloped the Free State while I was roaming the streets of Santo Domingo, searching for an establishment that served high caliber mofongo. My old friend and current expat, Slats, recommended a spot 18 miles away in Boca Chica – but the roads were far too treacherous and the moon too high in the sky to hazard such a journey.
But I digress. The purveyors of Conventional Wisdom, referenced in the title, would have you believe that the Maryland gubernatorial election should be a cakewalk for the Democratic ticket. “Safe D” they say.
I still believe that LG Brown will be our next Governor. That said, at this stage of the game, our Dream Team is coming across a bit more Gamble and Hoitz. For those who recall that film, it worked out in the end but it damn sure wasn’t pretty.
Caveat: I don’t know the particular methodology of the latest aforementioned survey nor have I explored the internals. This poll could very well be an outlier. Other, earlier opinion research from June and July shows a Brown lead in the 15% range. Personally, as of this writing, I feel the lead is in the 10% ballpark.
My larger point is that Republican candidates for Governor can, and have, won in deep-blue states. Let’s look at some (fairly) recent examples:
In Vermont in 2000, Gore captured 50.6% of the vote, with Nader pulling in another seven percent; then-Governor Bush finished with 40.7%. Four years later, Kerry secured 58.9% compared to 38.8% for President Bush. In 2002, Jim Douglas (a Republican) eked out a 45% plurality and won against a Democratic Lieutenant Governor.
Want a better case study? Sure, how about Massachusetts. In 2000, Gore carried the state with 59.8% of the vote with Nader obtaining another 6.4%. Bush? A mere 32.5%. In 2004, Kerry crushed Bush 61.9% - 36.8%. In 2002, some Michigan transplant called Mitt defeated the Democratic gubernatorial nominee (the State Treasurer) by a 49.8% - 44.9% margin.
How about closer to home? In 2000, Gore won Maryland with 56.5% while Bush managed only 40.3%. In 2004, the margin tightened a bit – with Kerry only able to win by 13% (55.9% - 42.9%). Meanwhile, in 2002, GOPer Bobby Haircut beat a Kennedy, also the state LG, with 51.55% of the vote.
Now, 2002 was an odd election cycle – being the first following 9/11. That said, non-presidential general elections, with lower turnout, can be grim for Democratic office-seekers.
Here is my take on the political realities:
First, many Democrats who did not participate in the primary will vote for the ticket in November. They just aren’t focused on the race yet. The challenge is that they need a reason to pay attention and I don’t believe that the Brown/Ulman team is providing a compelling rationale for activation….at least not yet.
Beyond that, and this applies to a relatively tiny but important slice of the Democratic electorate, there are still some hurt feelings from a bruising primary. I believe the vast majority of Mizeur and Gansler voters will come home, but some won’t. I can see a handful from both camps sitting this one out, with perhaps a small percentage of Mizeur voters voting Libertarian while a few Gansler people cross over to vote for Hogan. Not hordes of voters mind you, but such races can be decided at the margins, by thousands of votes scattered across the state.
Perhaps Labor Day will witness a spectacular re-unveiling of Brown/Ulman. That said, it is a little too quiet, even by August standards. And those who believe that a built-in D advantage ensures their victory would do well to ponder the political fates of Doug Racine, Shannon O’Brien and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Brown/Ulman need to consolidate the Democratic base, appeal to Independents and reachable Rs - starting now - otherwise they might be spending more time in La Romana than Annapolis come January. Slats can hook them up.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.