- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. remains popular among the state’s voters, but is beginning to lose some support among Democrats, according to a poll.

In telephone polling of 836 registered voters — conducted June 4 through June 9 by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies — support for Mr. Ehrlich remains high. But the numbers show a gradual erosion in his approval rating, from 57 percent in August to 52 percent this month.

Mr. Ehrlich, however, continues to receive overwhelming support from fellow Republicans, with 90 percent approving of the job he is doing and 6 percent disapproving. He received 30 percent approval from Democrats, with 47 percent disapproving and 23 percent offering no opinion. But he remains strong among independents, with 53 percent approving of his job performance.

“The administration is pleased with a majority approval rating,” said Mr. Ehrlich’s spokeswoman, Shareese N. DeLeaver. “And the governor will continue to disseminate his message to Maryland citizens.”

But Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Isiah “Ike” Leggett said Mr. Ehrlich’s record is starting to catch up with him.

“I do believe as his record gets out we will have a better reflection of what his real popularity is,” Mr. Leggett said.

Mr. Leggett said the polls may indicate a need for Mr. Ehrlich to move further to the “center” or risk losing legislative support.

“There may be some pause and reflection in terms of those — Republicans — who have jumped on his bandwagon,” he said.

Patrick Gonzales, president of the polling and research company that paid for the survey, said Mr. Ehrlich’s re-election prospects in two years depend on his ability to hang on to his Democrats.

“For a Republican to win any statewide election in Maryland, they have to get about 30 percent of the Democratic vote and if they don’t do that, they won’t be successful,” said Mr. Gonzales, who has been polling for about 20 years.

Ehrlich supporters said the numbers show that the governor is in good shape to win a second term.

“The numbers are not bad for a Republican in the state of Maryland,” said Republican political strategist Kevin Igoe. “I think it shows some strength on the governor’s side from his fight on behalf of taxpayers.”

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, also asked questions about state and national elections, as well as the conflict in Iraq.

The poll has Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, with a 2-to-1 lead over Republican challenger E.J. Pipkin in her re-election bid. Sixty-one percent of those polled said they would vote for Miss Mikulski and 30 percent for Mr. Pipkin, with just 9 percent undecided.

The poll also indicates 58 percent of those polled disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war in Iraq, compared with 36 percent who approve.

Mr. Bush also has declined in his job-approval rating from 45 percent in March to 39 percent, and if the election were held this week Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts would garner 52 percent of the vote compared with 38 percent for Mr. Bush. Independent Ralph Nader had a distant 2 percent, while 8 percent were undecided, according to the poll.

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