Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. holds a 1 percentage point lead over Gov. Martin O'Malley in a Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday. The telephone survey of 500 likely voters in Maryland, taken July 8, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, meaning the results represent a statistical dead heat. Ehrlich (R) leads O'Malley for the first time in the latest poll, 47 percent to 46 percent. Two percent said they preferred another candidate and 5 percent were undecided.
"This is going to be a close election, we've always known that," said O'Malley (D) campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese. "The governor looks forward to doing what he's been doing, which is traveling around the state, sharing views with voters and making the tough decisions necessary to get the state through this national recession."
The O'Malley campaign prefers to refer to a May poll conducted by The Washington Post that gave the incumbent governor an 8 percentage point lead. The Ehrlich camp sees a trend. O'Malley led 49 percent to 43 percent in the Rasmussen poll taken in February, before Ehrlich said he would run for the post he held from 2003 to 2007. By April, when Ehrlich announced, he had closed the gap with O'Malley to 47-44.
"That trend shows that voters aren't interested in the negative ads that O'Malley has been airing," said Ehrlich campaign spokesman Andy Barth. "In fact, they hurt him more than they hurt us. And [voters] are interested in our determination to create jobs and reduce taxes."
O'Malley on Friday unveiled a television ad titled "Tough Choices." The ad says O'Malley inherited a $1.7 billion budget deficit but made "tough choices" by cutting spending, freezing college tuition, making "record investments" in schools and creating "tax credits for small businesses to create jobs." The $1.7 billion figure includes a deficit left by the General Assembly's failure to find a way to fund a $1.3 billion increase in education funding passed in 2002. The O'Malley campaign says the figure represents the gap O'Malley would have faced by fiscal 2009 had he not pushed a tax package passed by the legislature during a 2007 special session. The Ehrlich campaign disputes the ad, which was set to air beginning Monday in Baltimore.
"The truth is we left a surplus," Barth said of the Ehrlich administration. "It was $247 million in the general fund and enough in the rainy day fund for a surplus of over a billion dollars. They talk about tough choice. They're not able to choose the truth."
The O'Malley campaign also made a calculated move in enlisting President Obama (D) to make a pitch on the governor's behalf. Obama is increasingly unpopular nationally but holds a 57 percent approval rating in Maryland, according to the Rasmussen poll. On Thursday, Obama supporters in Maryland received a blast e-mail from the president encouraging volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls in support of O'Malley. The campaign received inquiries "in the thousands" from people interested in volunteering for O'Malley after the e-mail went out, Abbruzzese said.
"The president remains very popular in Maryland and the governor was honored that the president agreed to send out that e-mail," he said. "And the response has been tremendous." More information on the poll is available at www.rasmussenreports.com. SOURCE: Gazette