The latest poll on the Maryland Senate race (by Survey USA) shows Republican Michael Steele “leading” Democrat Benjamin Cardin 48-47 — in other words a dead-heat. Actually I doubt that Steele is doing quite that well. Survey USA’s sample included 50 percent Dems and 34 percent Republicans. The disparity between registered Dems and Republicans is much larger — 25 percent, not 16 percent. Even allowing for differences between Republican representation among registered vs. likely voters, I suspect that Survey USA over-sampled Republicans.
Nonetheless, the poll contains pretty news for Steele, particularly the fact that 33 percent of blacks polled say they will vote for him (as opposed to 63 percent who say they will vote for Cardin). The conventional wisdom (or Tom Bevan’s wisdom anyway) is that Steele has a decent shot if he gets 30 percent of the black vote. And, if the 2002 election was any guide, Cardin should worry about how many of those African-Americans who say they are going to vote for him will actually turn out on election day.
As I’ve been saying, I think the racial politics of this race make it a volatile one, and I doubt that the current polls tell us as much as we might think about the final outcome.