About a month ago, I saw Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley campaigning at the Bethesda metro station in the Montgomery County suburbs of Washington, D.C. This struck me as unusual, especially so early in O’Malley’s election season (he had no serious opponent in the Democratic primary). Democrats running for statewide office typically don’t shake many hands in Montgomery, County; they take that vote for granted, as well they might.
I asked a few Democrats what was up. One insider told me that the O’Malley camp is close to a state of panic due to doubts that Democratic voters will show up in the numbers needed to re-elect the governor.
This, I think, explains today’s news that President Obama, who is still resonably popular here, will campaign for O’Malley early next month. It also explains why Obama had O’Malley at the White House earlier this week for a signing ceremony, and why Obama recently recorded a 60-second radio ad for the governor.
Finally, it probably explains the likely venue for Obama’s appearance with O’Malley – Bowie State College in Prince George’s Country. PG Country is a D.C. suburb with a heavy African-American population. African-American voters rank foremost among those O’Malley needs to turn out on election day and foremost among those Obama may still be able to motivate.
Meanwhile, O’Malley is hoping he will not suffer as a result of an embarrassing episode in which a state agency posted, and then hastily removed from its website, a gloomy economic report that ran counter to a more positive spin that O’Malley was pitching. The report, by the Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR), stated that Maryland’s economy had “stalled.” This contradicted the agreed-upon official line of the O’Malley administration that the recovery is proceeding apace.
Emails from the DLLR warned the O’Malley administration not to make much of a slight uptick in job creation in July. O’Malley, though, touted the uptick notwithstanding this specific warning and the fact that, more generally, the agency was saying the economy was stalled. Sure enough, in August the state lost 6,000 jobs.
Ultimately, it is the fact of stalling, not the clownish efforts to spin it, that is most damaging to O’Malley. But even those not inclined to blame O’Malley for the state of the economy (which is not as bad in Maryland as it is nationally) may not appreciate being governed by a gang that can’t shoot straight.
UPDATE: As I was working on this post, a new poll was released. It shows O’Malley up by 11 points, 52-41 among likely voters. His opponent, Bob Ehrlich, has the nearly unanimous support of Republicans and a big edge among independents. But, according to the Washington Post which conducted the poll, O’Malley has successfully invigorated his party’s base to the pont that four out of five Maryland Democrats say they are enthusiastic about voting for him.
I guess running scared isn’t a bad strategy.
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