- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

Maryland Republicans on Election Day regained some of the ground they lost 12 years ago as Democrats increased their stronghold in two key suburbs and Baltimore but lost votes in other parts of the state.

President Bush won 43 percent of the vote in Maryland on Tuesday, the highest percentage of votes for a Republican candidate since his father won the state in 1988 with 51 percent.

In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated President George Bush, 50 percent to 36 percent, bringing several Maryland counties under Democratic control and decimating Republican support in the Democrats’ three heavily populated jurisdictions: Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city.

Last week, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry won the state with 56 percent of the vote, a 1 percent decline from the 57 percent that Vice President Al Gore captured in 2000.

That made this year’s presidential election the first time that Democrats lost ground since Mr. Clinton’s victory, while Republicans extended their string of four consecutive gains, picking up the most ground since 1992.

“For a president regarded as a conservative to have such solid numbers in a state that hung so firmly in the blue column four years ago is truly momentous,” said John M. Kane, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

Democrats downplayed Republicans’ gains.

“It would have been shocking if an incumbent wartime president who went up nationally had not improved on 40 percent. It would have been the ultimate signal of the end of the Republican Party,” said Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party. “As it is, they are in deep trouble. He went up 2.7 percent. That’s called no big deal.”

Mr. White pointed to the sound defeats suffered by Republicans in all eight congressional districts. No Republican won more than a third of the vote.

“And these are people they thought would be competitive,” Mr. White said.

But Republicans increased their leads over Democrats in the state’s traditionally Republican counties that the party had started to lose during the Clinton years. In Carroll County, Republicans increased their lead of 21,000 votes in 2000 to 30,000 votes this year. Mr. Bush captured 51,840 votes in that county, compared with Mr. Kerry’s 21,143. In Anne Arundel County, Republicans doubled their margin of victory from 2000, winning 124,071 to 95,171.

But Democrats increased their leads in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city. Mr. Kerry received 645,964 votes, compared with Mr. Bush’s 207,802. Mr. Bush received more votes in other parts of Maryland than did Mr. Kerry — 729,449 to 564,384.

The difference between the three jurisdictions and the rest of the state reflects the growing partisan divide in Maryland, and across the country.

The U.S. electorate is a sea of conservative “red” states bookended by metropolitan “blue” states. Maryland is blue down the middle with red on both sides.

“Every state in the country is that way,” Mr. White said.

Both Republicans and Democrats say their parties will gain ground in the 2006 midterm elections. “The Maryland GOP’s progress this year has only made us stronger,” Mr. Kane said.

Mr. White said many of the Republican-controlled counties are growing rapidly, making issues that Democrats favor like schools, transportation, jobs and environment come to the forefront.

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