From Revere to Poe: the Massachusetts and Maryland Races

    In Maryland, incumbent Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley currently leads his Republican opponent, Bob Ehrlich, by a mere three points.  Before Republicans get their hopes up here, the fact is that this state is very blue, especially of late.  This is evident by the fact that incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski leads Eric Wargotz by 24 points and will be back in Washington for another six years.  I also suspect that when all is said and done, O’malley will prevail.

     In Maryland’s eight Congressional districts, there is only one Republican- Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th district along the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border.  He is expected to win re-election while Democrats are expected to win their races elsewhere with one exception-  the 1st Congressional District, currently represented by first term Democrat Frank Kratovil.  Since 2008, he has had a target on his back.  This area, for anyone who has ever driven along Maryland’s eastern shore will attest, is a conservative area and also includes the conservative suburbs of Baltimore.  When the largest city in the district is Salisbury, you know you are in conservative territory.  Hence, it would appear that Kratovil will lose this election to Andy Harris.  However, the troubling news for Harris is that he holds slim margins in recent polls despite the district’s demographics favoring his election.  This will be a rematch of the 2008 race where Kratovil prevailed by little over one point.  This district was won by McCain by over 18 points and favored Bush in 2000 and 2004 by similar margins.  Kratovil draws his main support from the eastern shore counties while Harris dominates in the western shore suburbs of Baltimore, Harford, and Anne Arundel counties.  If Harris wishes to have any chance, he needs to make inroads into that eastern shore area.  In his favor, he has Kratovil’s vote for Obama’s stimulus to demonstrate that it did little for the rising unemployment rates in this region.  In what should be a very close race again (Kratovil is considered one of the most moderate Democrats in Congress), should Harris fail to prevail this year, his chances in the future are proportionately diminished.  This is the perfect year for Harris.  Given the anti-incumbent fervor out there, I believe Harris will prevail.  Hence, Republicans will pick up one seat in Maryland.

      Moving up I-95 to the very blue state of Massachusetts, Republicans believe their chances are enhanced in this state since the election of Scott Brown.  But, Brown ran as an outsider more than a Republican, and it proved a winning formula.  It was also basically a single-issue candidacy- health care.  Granted, his election changed the strategy to ram Obamacare through Congress, but it did nevertheless pass despite Brown’s presence in the Senate.  It did make him a celebrity and power broker whose vote is courted.  In the Governor’s race, incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick, who has been linked to several controversies, currently leads Charles Baker by 5 points.  The independent candidacy of Tim Cahill could be used to pull votes away from Patrick which is what is leaving this race artificially closer than what it should be.

     In Congress, all ten Representatives are Democratic and I suspect it will remain that way.  Besides, despite my personal dislike of Barney Frank, it is good to keep him around as one of the faces of the housing crisis…and comic relief!  Although theoretically a long shot, the best chances for Republicans occurs in the 10th District being vacated by Bill Dellahunt.  Republicans have not held this seat since 1982 and the district voted for Obama,Kerry, and Gore.  Among the ten Congressional districts, this one had the smallest margin of victory for Democratic Presidential candidates, but they were still in double digits.  Put another way, a Democrat will represent this District come November, 2010.  I have heard and read good things about the Republican-Jeff Perry- as a conservative answer in Massachusetts, and unapologetically so.  Should he win, which I doubt, then that would be a greater victory for the Republican Party in Massachusetts than Scott Brown’s victory. 

     One final note:  preliminary census data indicates that Massachusetts will lose a representative in 2012.  Reapportionment more than anything may be the springboard for the Republican Party to gain a foothold in Massachusetts more so than the 10th District race this year.