Vol. 10, No. 31

August 1-7, 2002

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Gubernatorial Poll: Snapshot or Cannon Shot?

Maybe it’s the desire to regain control over our public affairs after so many months when we’ve seemed to have little.

Perhaps it’s the newspaper partnership behind the Maryland Poll which assures prominent display of its periodic results.

Maybe it’s just time for a rollicking good political campaign.

Whatever the case, the recent Maryland Poll showing Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich in a virtual tie with Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the talk of Chesapeake Country. (She led 47-44 percent.)

It is wise to remember that a political poll is but a snapshot in time, like photos from the last family reunion. But in our poll-crazed political process, it is also true that public opinion surveys shape the election campaign that follows and perhaps even the outcome.

According to the poll, Ehrlich may well have erased Townsend’s big lead because he appeals more to black voters than any recent GOP predecessor seeking the job.

It is hard to know at this point whether Townsend’s trouble drumming up African American support is real or illusory. Some black leaders likely to swing her way are holding out for various reasons. And pollsters will tell you that they often find it hard getting a true measure of sentiments in African American communities.

But it’s also a fact that so far, Townsend has done little to persuade Marylanders of any color why she should be their governor.

Get ready for her cavalcade of ‘comparative’ advertising, telling voters about Ehrlich’s hard-edged conservative record. Get ready, too, for those who will criticize it as ‘negative,’ perhaps because they have forgotten that politics is a contact sport.

But along with telling us what Ehrlich is or isn’t, Townsend must re-introduce herself. Saying she was lieutenant governor for nigh on to a decade or that she is the eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, a civil rights champion, doesn’t make the case.

Ours is not a process of royal succession, even if your name is Kennedy.

Polls, despite their shortcomings, can be useful in energizing voters and candidates alike. Perhaps this one will prompt Townsend to show us what she’s made of.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly