Says if he is put in a new...


October 02, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

REP. TOM MCMILLEN says if he is put in a new congressionaldistrict dominated by the Eastern Shore, he may run against Barbara Mikulski for the Senate instead.

Representative McMillen couldn't beat Senator Mikulski in the Democratic primary next year. She is a Democrat's Democrat. But there is always the general election.

The 1992 election is the Republican Party's best hope of defeating Senator Mikulski. It is her first re-election bid after one six-year term. It was at that point in time that all the recent Maryland senators who were ousted were ousted.

* In 1976, Democrat Paul Sarbanes defeated incumbent Republican Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr. Senator Beall was elected in 1970.

* In 1970, Mr. Beall beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Joseph Tydings, who went to the Senate in 1964.

* In 1968, Republican Charles McC. Mathias ousted incumbent Democrat Daniel Brewster, who had won his Senate seat in 1962.

Since Maryland started directly electing senators in 1913, nine incumbents have lost. Seven times it was after only one term.

Why is this? Because senators face a new and different electorate when they run for re-election the first time. One is the presidential electorate, and one is the off-year electorate. The former includes thousands more voters who aren't present in the latter. A popular presidential candidate's coattails can help elect a senatorial challenger of the same party or help oust a senatorial incumbent of the other party; such a presidential candidate's absence can have the opposite effect.

An example: 1952: J. Glenn Beall Sr. (Jr.'s father, of course) won by 43,000 votes, thanks to Dwight Eisenhower's 104,000-vote victory in the state. 1958: the total vote cast for senator fell by 100,000, and Senator Beall won by only 15,000 votes. 1964: turnout rose 250,000, Democrat Lyndon Johnson won the state by 345,000, and Tydings ousted Beall with a margin of 275,000.

Running for an open seat in 1986, Mikulski won by a margin of 240,000 out of 1.1 million. Next year about 1.8 million votes are expected, and if George Bush gets as much as 56-58 percent of that (and he may get more), he could offer a Republican real coattails. That's no guarantee, but it is a big inducement.

So why aren't a lot of big-name Republicans lining up to run against her?

I don't know. I do know that McMillen is a big name. (Also a big man, and if he runs, the race will set a record for physical stature difference: he's 6'11," she's 4'11.") I also know, of course, that he's a Democrat, but he has a moderate-to-conservative voting record and a suburban, high-tech political persona. He's the future. Liberal, urban Mikulski is the past. (I say that analytically, not judgmentally.) He could make the transition to the Republican Party, which increasingly is the party of younger, future-oriented, suburban voters, with ease.

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