Maryland — wheels within wheels

All of the focus on the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut should not cause us to lose sight of the fascinating struggle in Maryland between Democrats Benjamin Cardin and Kweisi Mfume. As I noted here, a recent poll showed Mfume to be leading Cardin, who has generally been considered the front-runner. I suggested that Cardin still has the upper hand because the poll showed that a huge number of Democrats are undecided and indicated that a disproportionate number of those who have decided are African Americans. Since Mfume, an African American, polls extremely well with this group, he may be closer than Cardin to his ceiling. On the other hand, Cardin must compete for the white vote not only with Mfume but also with a number of additional white candidates.

In any case, Mfume clearly needs to make solid in-roads with white voters in order to maintain his putative lead once undecided voters make up their minds. And it appears that he’s developed a strategy for doing just that — he is running as the “insurgent.” That theme is evident in this statement by Ralph (“filibuster them”) Neas of People for the American Way:

Both Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume are extremely well qualified, but the reason I support Kweisi Mfume is that we need a fighter in the United States Senate. There is a perception that Mfume will not just be a member of the club … He’s a fighter.

Democratic voters are said to like insurgents and fighters (Howard Dean being the paradigm). On the other hand, those who say this may be confusing Democratic voters and Democratic bloggers (Howard Dean being the paradigm).

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele will be the Republican (my apologies to his Republican opponent who emails me to claim that Steele is vulnerable). Polls show Steele running approximately even with Mfume but well behind Cardin. However, there is some basis for believing that a decent chunk of the black vote might defect to Steele or just stay home if Cardin wins. Mfume himself has signaled that such behavior might be appropriate given the way the white establishment rallied so unanimously around Cardin from day one.

I noticed, though, that the latest Mfume fundraiser was held at the home of that formidable Democratic insider Vernon Jordan. To the extent that Jordan has influence with Mfume, the odds probably increase that, notwithstanding his past threats, Mfume will behave like a loyal Democrat in the event Cardin defeats him in the primary.

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