Sunday, November 12, 2006

Geography of O'Malley's Win

Preliminary election results on the website of the State Board of Elections indicate that Martin O'Malley won 52.5% of the vote compared to 46.4% for Bob Ehrlich. Ehrlich's share of the vote represents a drop of of 5.2% from his 2002 showing of 51.6% of the vote. In contrast, O'Malley's share of the vote represents an increase of 4.8% over the 47.7% received by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002.

In the big three Democratic strongholds of Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George's, the Democratic share of the vote rose by just 2.0%. Interestingly, the mayor of Baltimore increased his share of the vote by just 0.3% in his own town.

One reason that Townsend lost in 2002 was that the bottom fell out of the Democratic vote in areas of the state that normally vote Republican. Statewide Democratic candidates usually lose the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland. However, they don't lose by as much as Townsend. O'Malley made significant gains in each of these regions.

In the eight counties of the Eastern Shore, O'Malley won 36.7% compared to the 31.2% received by Townsend. The overall figure masks that O'Malley made much stronger gains in the upper Eastern Shore compared to the relatively two populous lower Eastern Shore counties of Wicomico and Worcester where O'Malley's vote was up less than 1% over 2002.

O'Malley increased the Democratic share of the vote from 39.3 to 45.1%--an increase of 5.8%--in the three counties of Southern Maryland (Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's). Most impressively, the O'Malley won a majority of 51.0% in Charles, a gain of 7.9% over 2002. The growth in the African-American share of the vote signals that Charles is likely to join soon the group of reliably Democratic jurisdictions. In Western Maryland (Garrett, Allegheny, Washington and Frederick), O'Malley increased the Democratic share of the vote from 32.2 to 38.6%, a gain of 6.4% from 2002.

Of course, one should not ignore the big five Baltimore suburban counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard. O'Malley was long thought to be a stronger candidate against Ehrlich precisely because his strong presence in the Baltimore region would help him undercut Ehrlich's strength in his home base. O'Malley did not fail to deliver as the Democratic share of the vote in 2006 rose 9.0% from 2002. While Townsend won only 34.8% of the vote in this region, O'Malley earned 43.8%. O'Malley's greatest gains were in Baltimore and Harford County.

The results should discourage Republicans because O'Malley's victory was not a result of the Democrats rallying traditional Democratic strongholds for one last gasp but of making major inroads in areas which Republicans had seen as the future base of a Republican majority. Republicans have their bases in Maryland but Democrats now fight them hard for votes on their home turf and can win the share needed to provide a statewide victory even against an incumbent Republican governor with strong approval ratings and a bulging bank account.

Ehrlich likes to blame his loss on the Democratic tide but the inconvenient fact remains that incumbent Republicans managed to win reelection in the even strong Democratic states of Hawaii and Rhode Island. According to the Baltimore Sun, Ehrlich lost because he just didn't work well with Democrats to rack up accomplishments during his term. Perhaps so, but surely Democrats deserve some credit for mobilizing voters outside of their "comfort zone" to use a favorite phrase of Ehrlich from 2002.

More gory details (i.e. see the even longer version of this post) on Maryland Politics Watch.


Blogger Stephanie Dray said...

Yep, we worked hard for this. This was not gifted to us on a silver platter.

11/12/2006 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Mdman said...

I am very interested to see if turnout increased in the areas where we canvassed in Montgomery County. We worked out tails off to get out drop-off voters, so I am very curious about those numbers.

O'Malley campaigned state-wide, which is important. I know he campaigned on the Eastern Shore. In the last election, I think that, in addition to her other mistakes, Townsend tried to replicate the national Democratic strategy of turning out the base in traditional D areas. Like Dean's 50 state strategy, Ds in MD need to have a 23 county strategy.

11/13/2006 10:02:00 AM  

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