- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin leads Lt. Gov Michael S. Steele by double digits in Maryland’s Senate race, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey.

Mr. Cardin, a Democrat, would receive 49 percent of the vote, and Mr. Steele, a Republican, 35 percent, in a head-to-head contest, according to an automated telephone survey of 500 likely Maryland voters conducted Sunday.

Both men are vying to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat who has served five terms.

“It’s early in this race. We know these polls will go up and down. But it’s clear that Marylanders want an effective leader with strong Democratic principles to succeed Paul Sarbanes,” Cardin campaign spokesman Oren Shur said.

In a survey last month, the New Jersey-based Rasmussen polling firm reported that Mr. Steele would get 45 percent of the vote and Mr. Cardin 40 percent.

But Mr. Cardin had 49 percent of likely voters and Mr. Steele 41 percent in a November survey, Rasmussen reported. Additionally, Mr. Cardin led Mr. Steele by 5 percentage points in a July poll.

“It is unlikely that the opinions of Maryland voters have been as volatile as suggested by the change from a Cardin lead in November to a Steele lead in January and back to an ever larger Cardin lead in the current survey,” the polling firm said in its report on its Web site (www.rasmussenreports.com/2006/State%20Polls/February%202006/Maryland%20Senator%20February.htm).

“The similarity between the current survey, the November survey, and earlier surveys suggests a general stability in the race,” Rasmussen Reports said. “In both November and the current survey, Cardin … held a solid lead over Steele.”

The surveys have a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The polling firm also reported that Mr. Steele has been tied statistically with Democrat Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and former congressman.

In a head-to-head contest, Mr. Steele would get 42 percent of the vote and Mr. Mfume 41 percent, according to the recent survey.

Mr. Steele led Mr. Mfume 45 percent to 38 percent in last month’s poll, and 45 percent to 44 percent in November.

“There’s no doubt this is going to be a close race. Obviously, the campaign remains focused on building a tremendous grass-roots organization and spreading the lieutenant governor’s message of hope and empowerment,” Steele campaign spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said.

Mr. Cardin and Mr. Mfume are competing for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 12 primary election. Mr. Steele faces scant competition for the Republican nomination.

Derek Walker, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the new poll “shows that Steele’s candidacy is not catching on.”

“He’s failed to pick up momentum. And in fact when he has been on the public’s radar, they’ve been turned off,” he said.

According to campaign-fundraising reports released this month, Mr. Cardin has raised $2.8 million and has $2.1 million on hand. Mr. Mfume has raised $421,000 and has $125,000 on hand. And Mr. Steele has raised $1.3 million and has more than $786,000 on hand.

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