Friday, August 04, 2006

So. MD - Retailing for Votes?

Apparently the claims that candidates aren't paying attention to the Southern Maryland exurban communities have been heard.
With about 6 percent of the state's 3 million voters, Southern Maryland is dwarfed by Montgomery and Prince George's counties. But Democrats and Republicans see the far-flung exurban communities in the state's fastest-growing region as fertile territory -- in part because voters there have a knack for crossing party lines.

In 2002, mobilization of rural voters helped propel Ehrlich to a victory that made him the state's first Republican governor in more than three decades. He carried all three Southern Maryland counties by wide margins: 27 percentage points in St. Mary's, 24 in Calvert and 13 in Charles.

President Bush won St. Mary's by the same margin in 2004, but he carried Calvert by a slimmer margin, 18 points, and lost Charles to Sen. John F. Kerry (D) by a percentage point. The numbers of registered Republicans and Democrats are about even in Calvert and St. Mary's; in Charles, the most populous of the three counties, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 49 to 34 percent.

Still, many Southern Maryland Democrats tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate. In a state where Democrats hold a two-to-one advantage over Republicans, Ehrlich needs cross-over support to win reelection, so these are voters worth wooing.
The governor's race is going to come down to the electorate in these exurban communities south of Washington and in the blue-collar, traditionally union-Democratic suburbs in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County. The conservative Democrats just outside the eastern rim of Baltimore's Beltway crossed party lines four years ago but O'Malley is making Ehrlich fight to keep them in his column.

Southern Maryland is an interesting case and, I'll be honest, one that I overlooked. The fact that Kerry made the three southern Maryland counties slightly more competitive and winning in Charles, shows that Ehrlich will have to spend just about as much time along the southern shore of the Cheasapeake as he will in the Baltimore suburbs that he considers his base. This opens the door for O'Malley to pay minimal interest to the generally small population in southern Maryland and focus more closely on running up huge margins in the Big Three and breaking even in the Baltimore media market. But, since southern Maryland is part of the expensive DC media market, I would expect to see Anthony Brown making a few more visits to the region.

Like Virginia's governor's race from last year, it is growing more evident that Maryland's will come down to the growing influence of conservative moderates who don't believe in strict partisan identification.

This story also comes on the heals of a Washingtonian article of the growing popularity of the Eastern Shore (link unavailable). The article, in essence, referred to the Eastern Shore as a region that is becoming to Washington what Long Island is to New York. Seeing as most of my family lives on Long Island, I can only hope the Eastern Shore keeps the hair salons and nail shops to a minimum.

Crossposted at Outside the Beltway


Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

I like your analysis. From what I have been hearing, the Shore has become more and more the local Long Island - for New Yorkers. A lot of New York money on the shore.

For us Dems, if the residents are long term, that could make the region more purple politically. Less than one-eighth of the state's population lives on the Shore; its Congressional District includes substantial sections of AA, Harford and I think Baltimore Counties as well.

Re: Southern MD, Charles is the largest of the counties, the bluest and, increasingly, the "Blackest." The arson attacks a year ago or so down there reflected a white racist's resistance to a newly affluent Black community there. But the whole region - Calvert, St. Mary's and Charles - has about 1/3 of the population of Montgomery County at least to date.

8/06/2006 09:35:00 AM  

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