Mayor's camp trumpets survey results

The Political Game

Governor's race: Poll ordered by O'Malley shows strong lead over Duncan.

July 19, 2005|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Supporters of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley are crowing about poll numbers showing the mayor well ahead of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan in the race for next year's Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The internal O'Malley poll, conducted by GarinHartYang Research Group of Washington, showed O'Malley with 50 percent support among likely primary voters. Duncan had 28 percent, and 22 percent were undecided.

The results of the poll, which had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, were similar to those in a Sun Poll conducted in April, which found O'Malley beating Duncan 45 percent to 25 percent, with 29 percent undecided.

Campaigns typically keep their poll numbers to themselves, but the O'Malley camp made sure a "confidential memorandum" containing the results was well circulated among political insiders last week.

If there were any doubt that the memo was designed to be read by all - including Duncan and his staff - consider that the poll was conducted June 20-23, but that the memo was dated and distributed July 13. O'Malley almost certainly had the results for well over two weeks before distilling selected portions into a memo to be sent throughout the state.

Pollsters conducted additional interviews in Montgomery County, and say they found that Duncan's support in his home territory was weaker than O'Malley's in Baltimore.

"In stark contrast to O'Malley's strong support in the Baltimore region, Duncan has lackluster support, holding a 52% to 31% lead in Montgomery County," the memo said. Because Duncan's name recognition is already near-universal in Montgomery, "the polling shows that Doug Duncan will have a difficult time getting 60% of the vote in his home county, much less achieving even the low end of 70% that most political observers believe he needs to compete statewide," the memo said.

Scott Arceneaux, campaign manager for Duncan, said the findings were all but meaningless with more than a year to go before the primary.

"This is an insider strategy that we've seen from the O'Malley campaign to try to get Democratic Party insiders and others to think it is a done deal," Arceneaux said. O'Malley aides, he said, want to "avoid an election altogether."

"Doug is traveling the state, listening and talking to folks," he said. "What you see in this poll is that 90 percent of the state knows who the mayor of Baltimore is, and only 50 percent know who the Montgomery County executive is."

That's true, said Kevin Igoe, a Republican campaign strategist. He said Duncan has a tougher time getting media attention in his home territory than the mayor does in his.

"What [Duncan] really has to overcome is not a comparison of records or a comparison of message, but a difference in the media markets," Igoe said. "When you turn on local news in D.C., it's national news. In Baltimore, it's really local. Right after the fire and the murders, it's the mayor."

O'Malley backers said the poll showed that voters believe he has a more compelling message.

Pollsters read statements about each candidate to voters, then asked "Who has the more convincing case that he is an effective leader?"

For O'Malley, they read: "Martin O'Malley has proven to be the more effective leader because he led Baltimore's comeback from being one of the most addicted, abandoned and violent cities in America, and today Baltimore is making progress with less crime, rising student test scores and lower property taxes.

For Duncan, the statement was: "Doug Duncan has proven to be the more effective leader because he was able to build upon Montgomery County's strengths and transform it into one of the most dynamic places in the entire nation, with first-class public schools, safe neighborhoods and record job growth."

Statewide, respondents said 53 percent to 26 percent that the mayor's message was more convincing. In the District of Columbia media market, voters favored the O'Malley statement 39 percent to 34 percent.

"People respect that Martin O'Malley has taken on very tough challenges and shown great progress," said Jonathan Epstein, the mayor's campaign manager.

Ehrlich's bracelets support veterans, children's health

With his shirtsleeves rolled in the summer heat, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was photographed last week with a pair of rubber bracelets prominently adorning his wrist.

So what causes is the governor supporting?

The camouflaged band was given to him by a veteran at a July Fourth parade and honors veterans causes, spokesman Henry Fawell said. The red-and-yellow bracelet was given to him at a Johns Hopkins Hospital children's telethon. The governor wears both regularly, Fawell said.

Sun staff writer Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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