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Divided they may fall, Part Three

I’ve written from time to time about the important Maryland Senate race. The Republicans will run Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a popular African-American. But Maryland is a heavily Democratic state, and this does not seem like a year in which it will tilt Republican. Thus, as popular and attractive as Steele is, the notion that he can claim this seat seems, on its face, far-fetched.

Until one considers the bitter primary race on the Democratic side. That battle bits Rep. Benjamin Cardin against Kweisi Mfume, an African-American who once headed the NAACP. The common wisdom has been that Cardin, backed by the Democratic establishment, will defeat Mfume and that, particularly in the face of Mfume’s bitterness about even the prospect of that outcome, many black voters will stay home or maybe even vote for Steele.

However, a Washington Post poll finds that Mfume is in the lead. Actually, the poll shows mostly how wide-open the primary is — Mfume leads among registered Democrats by 31-25, with 32 percent saying they don’t know whom they will vote for. Moreover, whites seem to make up a disproportionately high percentage of the undecided which, given the extent to which race correlates with preference in this poll, is a good sign for Cardin.

Although an Mfume victory would likely be a blow for Steele when it comes to making major inroads with black voters, and would probably produce a less visibly divided Democratic party, the poll shows that an Mfuse victory would boost Steele among white voters. In fact, the poll shows Steele trailing Cardin by 10 percentage points (49-39) and Mfume by only three (46-43).

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