- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. remains “overwhelmingly popular” with his Republican base but has lost much support among the state’s Democratic majority, according to a statewide poll released yesterday.

The poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies also showed Mr. Ehrlich facing tough challenges by the two leading Democratic candidates for governor. He trailed Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and was in a statistical tie with Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

“President Bush’s numbers have suffered in Maryland, and part of what is going on with Ehrlich is what is happening at the national level,” said Patrick Gonzales, president of the nonpartisan polling firm based in Annapolis. “Whenever the national party is having problems, it trickles down.”

Mr. Gonzales said Mr. Ehrlich has ample time to win back Democratic support before the November 2006 election. “He’s the governor, and he has all the power that comes with that,” Mr. Gonzales said.

The poll showed 48 percent of respondents favored Mr. O’Malley and 42 percent Mr. Ehrlich, with 10 percent undecided.

Mr. Duncan received support from 45 percent of respondents, compared with 44 percent for Mr. Ehrlich.

The poll of 815 registered voters was conducted Oct. 17 through Friday and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The poll also showed Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, leading Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, 47 percent to 38 percent in the U.S. Senate race, with 15 percent of voters undecided.

Mr. Steele is expected to announce today that he will seek to succeed retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat.

Derek Walker, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said the poll results show that “the Ehrlich-Steele administration is not representing the people of Maryland effectively and that the people of Maryland are ready for a change.”

“For an incumbent governor to be in the low 40s and for an incumbent lieutenant governor to not be breaking 40 percent is a sign that Marylanders are looking in a very different direction,” Mr. Walker said.

Audra Miller, spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, dismissed the findings.

“The governor was elected with the help of many Democrats,” she said. “At the end of the day, the voters will see that Maryland is a cleaner, safer and more prosperous state under the leadership of Governor Ehrlich, and that’s what will matter.”

Among Republicans, 88 percent approve of Mr. Ehrlich’s performance. But dissatisfaction among Democrats, who outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1 in Maryland, lowered his overall job-approval rating to 49 percent.

Twenty-six percent of Democrats approved of the job Mr. Ehrlich was doing, according to the poll.

It was Mr. Ehrlich’s lowest job-approval rating and highest disapproval rating — 42 percent — recorded by Gonzales Research since the governor took office in January 2003.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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