Fresh (I hope) pickings from the political grapevine

The Maryland primaries will take place next Tuesday. The polls are all over the map as to whether the Democratic Senate nominee will be Benjamin Cardin or Kweisi Mfume. Polls generally show Cardin running a little ahead of Republican Michael Steele, and Mfume running a little behind Steele.

I expect that Cardin will defeat Mfume. This will enable Steele (an African-American) to make a serious push for a large chunk of the state’s black vote. In fact, Steele already has a strong advertisement intended to do just that. Uncertainty about the strength of Steele’s appeal to black voters should keep this race interesting.

Meanwhile, a Rasmussen poll from Tennessee has Democrat Harold Ford in a virtual tie with Republican Robert Corker in the Senate race. Corker held a sizeable lead last month. Why has Ford wiped out the gap? Probably because of his advertising blitz. Corker spent lots of money in his primary, and hasn’t been on the air much lately. Control of the Senate could turn on this race because even if the Dems win all of the races that have been viewed as close (a tall order to be sure), they only have 50 Senators. But with this race now close, winning all the close ones gives them 51 (52 if the Allen-Webb race can be considered close).

Finally, in New Jersey, where general corruption in the state Democratic party was already a significant problem for Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the Senator now may have a personal corruption problem. The feds reportedly have launched an investigation into his financial dealings with a nonprofit agency he has helped over the years.

Even with a Ford win in Tennessee, the Dems don’t get to 51 unless Menendez holds his seat (or Webb defeats Allen). With Kean apparently slightly ahead already, I would bet against Menendez at this point if forced to wager.

JOHN adds: One more for the hopper: a Pennsylvania web site claims that a Casey internal poll has Santorum within the margin of error. I can’t vouch for the report, but it’s consistent with the way momentum in that race has been moving.

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