Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Senator of Steele

from The League: Reassembled

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele made it official this morning and announced he is running for the GOP nomination for the US Senate seat from Maryland.

An interesting campaign lies ahead. Although Ben Cardin is the early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, he stands to take a heavy beating in a primary crowded by five other candidates, including formidible opponents like well-known former Congress Kweisi Mfume and millionaire Josh Rales. If, as expected, he emerges from the primary, it will be as a bruised nominee with a depleted campaign war chest.

A Steele candidacy also places Democrats in an interesting dilemma. Because the job of Lt. Governor is predominantly ceremonial and Steele has held no other public office, there's not much of a history to attack. The Democrats don't see this as a problem, however. For the past week, the state party has been releasing press alerts about the "Steele-Ehrlich administration education cuts." Apparently, any bad policy that has come out of the Ehrlich camp in the past three years will be attributed to Michael Steele.

In essence, the Democrats are going to run a Senate campaign against Bob Ehrlich, who is expected to seek re-election as governor.

So what are the prospects for Steele?

On the one hand, he will probably have a breeze of a primary, spreading his message and raising money while the Democrats battle it out in a tough primary. In addition, the national GOP is expected to put alot of energy and money into this race because Karl Rove and other Republican strategists (who recruited Steele to run) see 2006 as a change for the GOP to reclaim a Senate seat from Maryland.

On the other hand, the Maryland electorate remains firmly Democratic. Early polls suggest that most voters plan to cast their ballot for the eventual Democrat, regardless of who emerges, against Steele. The Lt. Gov. didn't help himself this morning in his announcement speech when he observed "Too many in Washington today are not working toward that common goal of growth and freedom and an equal opportunity for every individual. Instead, too many on the left have their feet set in the concrete of old fears, old divisions and old ways of government." Bad move. Marylanders are not happy with anything that's going on in Washington, and they identify their unhappiness not with "the left" in DC but with the right. Steele needs to remember that he is not running in a primary; the lack of a Republican challenger means he should be in general election mode. As such, he doesn't need to be making such statements to win support from the right.

It promises to be an interesting campaign.

from The League: Reassembled

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