As President Barack Obama zeroes in on Maryland's sixth consecutive Democratic presidential candidate win, the state's "blue" status may not be as lopsided as history and recent polls otherwise suggest.
There is little doubt that Obama is on his way to winning Maryland in next month's election; his double-digit lead in the reliably Democratic state is holding steady in polls conducted since Mitt Romney emerged as his Republican rival. And voters in Maryland haven't picked a Republican for president since George H.W. Bush edged Michael Dukakis in 1988.
Public Policy Polling’s poll in May put Obama ahead 58 percent to 35 percent, with 6 percent undecided, and a mid-September poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies showed Obama outpacing Romney 55 percent to 36 percent.
Obama also bested Romney 57 percent to 34 percent—with 10 percent undecided—in The Baltimore Sun’s poll last week.
But looking closer at the numbers, the Sun’s poll, for example, showed that among white respondents, Romney came out on top 47 percent to 43 percent. Ninety-one percent of African-American respondents expected to vote for Obama.
In 2008, slightly more than half of the state’s white voters chose John McCain, yet Obama won Maryland 62 percent to 37 percent, the widest margin of the last six presidential elections.
If Maryland’s minority voters favor Obama next month at the same rate they did in 2008, Romney will need more than 75 percent of the white vote to upend Maryland’s domain as a Democratic stronghold, according to a National Journal analysis.
But the party’s reign over Maryland might be more tenuous than history and pollsters would otherwise suggest.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett revealed as much when the county’s Democratic party met last month to take its stance on the ballot questions voters will see on Nov. 6.
An impassioned debate broke out when the topic turned to last year’s congressional redistricting. Leggett, a lead architect of the 2002 redistricting, warned dissenting Democrats that the party could lose its political advantage if Maryland’s eight congressional districts were made more compact and contiguous.
“If you change this, just slightly, we will go from a potential 7-1 [advantage]—or the 6-2 that we have today—to a 5-3 or a 4-4,” he said. “Let me repeat: You make a slight change in two districts, you can go to a 4-4 in the state of Maryland. Just think about that.”