- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

There were jokes on the Maryland campaign trail last year that Benjamin L. Cardin would easily win the race to succeed longtime Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes because voters thought they were the same man.

Both are liberal Democrats, studious, reserved and — after each spent years in the Maryland legislature and Congress — prone to long-winded discourses on policy intricacies.

Neither was known for inspired oratory.

Since he took the oath last month as Maryland’s freshman senator, however, Mr. Cardin has distinguished himself from his predecessor with bold words and an aggressive style.

In his first speech on the Senate floor, delivered a week after taking office, Mr. Cardin denounced President Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq and called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

“We need a surge in U.S. troops coming home, not a surge in those going to war,” said Mr. Cardin, adding that the plan wasn’t new but more of the same, “just now with more American troops in harm’s way.”

Mr. Cardin, 63, also spoke passionately about global warming as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

“The impact of global warming is real and right before our eyes,” he said. “It’s a crisis that affects every human being on this Earth, and we must take action now.”

He rose on the Senate floor in support of increasing the federal minimum wage, saying, “I believe it is wrong that millions of hard-working Americans who play by the rules still live in poverty and are unable to provide for their families.”

Mr. Cardin’s quick transition from 20-year House veteran to up-and-coming freshman senator has not gone unnoticed by his colleagues.

“He brings a fresh spirit to the Senate,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat who for two decades has been Maryland’s firebrand senator beside the stately Mr. Sarbanes, now retired.

“Ben Cardin certainly shares Paul Sarbanes’ integrity and dedication to the state of Maryland,” Miss Mikulski said, “but Ben is his own man and will create his own legacy.”

Mr. Cardin told The Washington Times that he is still finding his way as a senator, and he confided that “it is a thrill” every time he performs the freshman duty of presiding over the Senate.

“I still wake up every morning very thankful for the opportunities I have being a United States senator,” he said. “I still have a smile on my face.”

He also said he welcomed comparisons to Mr. Sarbanes and Miss Mikulski, two lawmakers he emulates. Still, Mr. Cardin said he would continue to build his own reputation.

“I have my own way of doing business,” he said. “I call it my own brand name. I think I’ve developed a reputation of my own, and that’s what I want. … I’ve got a little Mikulski and Sarbanes in me, as well as a lot of other people. Certainly, there’s a lot of my mother and father in me.”

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