- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

Democrats will not lose the “emerging black swing vote” this fall, and will retake the governor’s mansion and retain their hold on retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes’ seat, according to the latest poll, released yesterday.

When asked to choose between two candidates, Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley led incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by five percentage points, and in the Senate race Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin led Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele by 15 points in the telephone survey of 819 registered voters, conducted April 4-13 by Gonzales Research and Marketing.

According to the poll, Democrats O’Malley and Cardin would overwhelmingly win the black vote. This contradicts the findings of an internal Democratic poll leaked earlier this month, which said that Republicans Ehrlich and Steele could win over an “emerging black swing vote.”

In a choice between the two candidates, the Gonzales poll showed Mr. O’Malley with 46 percent of the vote to Republican Mr. Ehrlich’s 41 percent, with 13 percent undecided. The poll’s margin for error was 3.5 percentage points.

In the Democratic primary contest, when voters were asked to choose between the two, Mr. O’Malley was ahead of Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan by 44 percent to 35 percent, with 21 percent undecided.

In the U.S. Senate race, Mr. Cardin was preferred over Mr. Steele, a Republican, by a comfortable margin, 49 percent to 35 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

Mr. Cardin, a Democrat, has led all but one of the polls conducted so far this year.

Among all Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat, Mr. Cardin leads primary challenger Kweisi Mfume, former chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, by eight points, 39 percent to 31 percent.

The poll showed Mr. Mfume with 69 percent of black voters to Mr. Cardin’s 17 percent, with 12 percent undecided.

But in a general election showdown between Mr. Cardin, who is white, and Mr. Steele, who is black, the poll showed Mr. Cardin with 72 percent of black voters and Mr. Steele with 21 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

The internal Democratic poll of 500 black Democrats, by consultant Cornell Belcher, found an “emerging black swing” voting bloc in Maryland and said that Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele “have a clear ability to break through the Democratic stronghold among African-American voters in Maryland.”

The Belcher poll showed 14 percent overall support for Mr. Steele, but 44 percent said they may be willing to forsake their Democratic roots and back the Republican.

But the Gonzales poll delivered different results in both the U.S. Senate race and the governor’s race.

In a direct matchup, Mr. O’Malley had 69 percent of the black vote to Mr. Ehrlich’s 12 percent, with 19 percent undecided.

The poll also showed a majority of Marylanders want the state Board of Elections to produce a “paper trail” for this fall’s balloting. The poll showed 56 percent of respondents in favor of a paper trail, while 41 percent were in favor of electronic touch screens, with no paper trail.

The Democrat-controlled state legislature defeated an attempt this year to switch from the electronic machines to optical-scan machines, which produce a paper trail.

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