24 Days to Election Day: Maryland

Maryland will safely go for Obama this year as it is a fairly consistent Democratic state. Even when it voted Republican, the margin of victory was not that great with the last major GOP victory occurring in 1956 with Eisenhower. Thus, Obama picks up 10 electoral votes.

For the Senate, Democratic incumbent Ben Cardin faces reelection. Perhaps his two biggest crusades are the the environment and federal workers. He is a global warming enthusiast and since Maryland is home to some 260,000 federal workers, he is also an advocate for them whenever workforce cuts are threatened. He is running against former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino. Bongino has received endorsements from Alan West and FreedomWorks PAC thus far. Unfortunately, polling shows a clear cut victory for Cardin. Surprisingly, independent candidate Rob Sobhani is running neck and neck with Bongino.

Redistricting in Maryland was completed with two goals in mind. The first was to enhance the exposure of 3rd District representative John Sarbanes in anticipation of a future senatorial or gubernatorial run. The second goal was to weaken one of the two Republican-held districts. Steny Hoyer made no secret of the efforts in Annapolis. They eventually decided to target Roscoe Bartlette in the 6th instead of Andy Harris in the First. But, even the best laid plans can run into problems, and they did in Maryland as will be explained shortly.

In the 2nd District which covers the northern Baltimore suburbs, Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger will face state senator Nancy Jacobs. Although it is a huge stretch to predict a Jacobs victory, she is one of the most outspoken conservative voices in the Democratic-dominated state senate and she has an excellent legislative resume. This race may actually be closer than most political pundits currently believe and Jacobs is a GOP face to watch in Maryland politics. John Sarbanes is assured of reelection in the 3rd as he faces Eric Knowles.

Given his liberal streak, which endeared him to Pelosi, and his campaign skills, Steny Hoyer has risen to the second ranking Democrat in the House. In his Fifth District, which encompasses the DC suburbs, redistricting made it just a tad more conservative. He will face the house of delegates minority leader, Terry O’Donnell. Democrat Elijah Cummings usually runs unopposed but will face Republican Frank Mirabile for the second cycle in a row. This district covers some of the most impoverished sections of Baltimore before snaking into the affluent western suburbs. In 2010, Mirabile managed to pull 23% of the vote, but he would be hard pressed to repeat that effort in 2012. Like the 5th, the 8th district, represented by Democrat Chris Van Hollen, got ever so slightly more conservative. Although also covering some of the DC suburbs, it extends into some conservative territory in Frederick and Carroll counties. He will face businessman and sometimes CNBC commentator Ken Timmerman.

As stated earlier, Democrats targeted the 6th District which runs from the very conservative Maryland panhandle almost to the Delaware border. When redistricted, it now pushes into heavily Democratic Montgomery county to the south. This cost the Fourth district, held by Democrat Donna Edwards, some important territory. Initially, she protested but bit the bullet and should easily defeat Republican Faith Loudon.

Most political pundits have basically written off Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlette in the Sixth District. He is consistently conservative and in 2010 he joined the Tea Party Caucus in the House. Defiant, he refuses to back down against Democratic candidate, John Delaney. This is his first run for office and he has received some heavy endorsements from the likes of Bill Clinton which underscores the importance of this race. Delaney has invested over $1.7 million of his own money in his campaign.

So, what does this have to do with the First District? The 1st is the Eastern Shore area of Maryland and Andy Harris won it in 2010 for the GOP. Considered a moderate in the US House, he was one of the most conservative voices in state politics. Wendy Rose won the Democratic primary and was thought to be a moderate alternative to Andy Harris who describes herself as a “reformed Republican.” However, she was forced to withdraw when it was discovered she voted twice in 2006- once in Maryland and once in Florida. That is, she committed election fraud which, according to liberals and Democrats, does not exist. John LaFerla will mount a write-in campaign that has the support of the state Democratic Party.

Hence, with the First basically secured for the GOP, they can now redirect needed resources into the 6th District race. Bartlette has had a target on his back before and he has survived. If he can bring out his conservative base in strong numbers, he may yet survive again. However, he would be vulnerable after this year for reasons to be explained shortly. I am going out on a limb here and posit a prediction in opposition to the expert political punditry out there and say that Bartlette will win reelection. Just as Melissa Bean in Illinois was a surprise in 2010, Bartlette will be this year’s surprise.

There are three questions of importance on the Maryland ballot, two of which should motivate conservative turn out and thus help Bartlette’s chances. One question asks whether the state should allow another casino, and whether their existing casinos could expand the number of games they offer.

The second concerns whether to grant in-state tuition for Maryland colleges to the children of illegal immigrants. There are an estimated 56,000 illegal immigrants in the state. Thus far, opponents of this state-level DREAM Act (and thus proponents of the veto referendum), have focused on costs. For example, they state it may cost $40,000 per student only to possibly see that person later deported. There are certain requirements in the law. They have to have attended a Maryland high school and their parents must have filed and paid taxes. They must attend a community college for two years but can transfer to a 4-year college after that. Thus far, polling indicates that this law is not as safe as many of the proponents believe.

The other area that should really bring out the conservative base is a gay marriage referendum. This is in response to a state law approving of civil gay marriages in the state that provides guarantees for religions. Again, voter approval is not a sure thing. For a Democratic dominated legislature, the votes to allow same sex marriage were very close prompting one lawmaker to note that the final vote for approval did not reflect the views of the people. Most importantly, it should definitely motivate the conservatives in Maryland to turn out and vote.

Part of the problem with Maryland is simple geography. Because of its shape, any area generally falls within the umbrella of two liberal metropolitan areas- Baltimore or Washington DC. However, there are two areas that are somewhat removed from these areas- the Maryland panhandle and the Eastern Shore area. It is in exactly these two areas that Republicans represent. Because the bulk of the population lives in these metropolitan areas, there is little chance for Republicans on a statewide basis, unless they are of the moderate ilk. But they can certainly win in the those two specific districts- the First and the Sixth. Harris would have likely won even if Rosen had stayed in the race. Call it a hunch, but this writer just thinks Bartlette will be sent back to Congress in what will probably be his last run for office.

In conclusion: Obama takes Maryland’s 10 electoral votes while Cardin is reelected to the Senate. The House delegation will remain 6-2 in favor of the Democrats.

Running totals thus far: Romney still leads Obama 159-118 in electoral votes. In the Senate, Republicans lead 34-20 and also in the House 126-97 in seats.

Next: Delaware and DC