In his latest column, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com assistant editor Brendan Miniter claimed that Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's "approval rating has reached as high as 67%, and at the end of the Legislature's regular session in April ... he was polling at 55%." Recent polls, however, put Ehrlich's approval rating in the 40s.
In his June 20 column, Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal.com assistant editor Brendan Miniter wrote that Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a first-term Republican, "is in a strong position to win re-election this fall." Miniter claimed that Ehrlich "enjoys surprisingly high approval ratings" and wrote that Ehrlich's "approval rating has reached as high as 67%, and at the end of the Legislature's regular session in April ... he was polling at 55%." But recent polling identified by Media Matters for America shows Ehrlich's approval rating to be at or below 50 percent, and Miniter completely ignored polling that indicates Ehrlich is trailing both Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan, the front-runners for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
If this is going to be a watershed year for Democrats, there is little sign of it here [Maryland], in the heart of one of the bluest states in the country. Only four other states handed Sen. John Kerry wider margins of victory two years ago, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1.
Nonetheless, four years after becoming the Old Line State's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew became vice president in 1969, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is in a strong position to win re-election this fall. He's raising plenty of money (including $1 million in one night at a fundraiser headlined by President Bush), is quietly cheered on by middle-of-the-road Democrats, and enjoys surprisingly high approval ratings. His approval rating has reached as high as 67%, and at the end of the Legislature's regular session in April -- when ratings are typically at low ebb -- he was polling at 55%.
Media Matters was unable to locate any polling from April 2006 showing Ehrlich's approval rating at 55 percent. A Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies poll conducted April 4-13 (+/- 3.5 percent margin of error) put Ehrlich's approval at 50 percent. More recent polling shows lower numbers for Ehrlich. A June 9-11 poll conducted by SurveyUSA (+/- 4.1 percent margin of error) gave Ehrlich a 44 percent approval rating -- a drop of 11 percent from February. Citing the SurveyUSA poll, National Journal's weblog, "The Hotline," noted (subscription required) on June 15 that Ehrlich is among the "lowest-ranked purple Govs" -- meaning governors whose states voted for the other party's candidate in the 2004 presidential election. Moreover, Media Matters was unable to confirm that Ehrlich's approval rating "reached as high as 67%." The highest approval rating Media Matters encountered was 63 percent, from a January 2004 Washington Post poll.
Miniter did not even address polling that indicates Ehrlich trails or is statistically even with the two front-runners for the Democratic nomination. A March 31-April 5 OpinionWorks survey of likely Maryland voters (+/- 2.8 percent margin of error) indicated that Ehrlich trailed O'Malley by nine points. The Baltimore Sun reported on April 28:
A telephone survey of 1,214 likely voters released yesterday shows O'Malley leading Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. by 9 percentage points, 46 percent to 37 percent. Meanwhile, Duncan leads Ehrlich by 2 percentage points, 41 percent to 39 percent, a difference within the survey's 2.8 percentage point margin of error. Pollster Steve Raabe of OpinionWorks said that the difference arises in the Baltimore region, where O'Malley has greater support than Duncan.
According to the Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies poll cited above, when asked to choose between O'Malley and Ehrlich, 46 percent of registered voters chose O'Malley, compared with 41 percent who cited Ehrlich. When given a choice between Duncan and Ehrlich, 44 percent chose Duncan, while 42 percent answered Ehrlich.
The poll analysis also seemed to contradict Miniter's claim that Ehrlich "is quietly cheered on by middle-of-the-road Democrats":
Ehrlich's softness among Democrats is once more evident in general election match-ups with the two candidates campaigning for the opportunity to challenge him.
In a match-up with Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, Ehrlich trails 44% to 42%. Again, the current attitude among Maryland Democrats to support the candidate of their own party (Duncan is up 67%-17%) puts the Governor at a disadvantage.
Between now and November, Ehrlich will need to see a change in this dynamic to capture a second term.