Correction to This Article
A June 28 article about a Washington Post poll on the Maryland governor's race incorrectly reported that a state study is underway to determine whether Baltimore is underreporting crimes. The study of the city and other jurisdictions was authorized but subsequently canceled.

Poll Shows Ehrlich Lagging As He Opens Reelection Run

By Robert Barnes and Claudia Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. starts his reelection campaign today significantly trailing Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, according to a new Washington Post poll. Although the state's voters give the governor good marks for the job he's done, they also appear inclined to return a Democrat to the governor's mansion.

Ehrlich kicks off his campaign today at his boyhood home in the Baltimore suburb of Arbutus, attempting to become the state's first Republican governor in 50 years to serve a second term. But the poll shows why he is preparing to spend a record amount and why he is considered one of the nation's most endangered Republican governors.

Ehrlich is running in an overwhelmingly Democratic state at a time when voters are not happy with the GOP. Maryland voters are more critical than voters nationally of the Bush administration and more strongly opposed to the war in Iraq. And, unlike earlier in Ehrlich's term, more Marylanders than not believe the state is heading in the wrong direction, the poll shows.

Public education is the top priority of voters statewide, and that is the area in which they give Ehrlich his lowest marks. Among the state's largest jurisdictions, controlling crime ranks a strong second in Prince George's and Baltimore counties; growth and transportation are emerging priorities in Montgomery County.

The poll shows Ehrlich trailing O'Malley by 11 percentage points among registered voters and 16 points among those who say they are "absolutely certain" to vote in the Nov. 7 election. The deficit comes even though a majority of voters find Ehrlich likable, approve of the job he has been doing and believe that the 48-year-old former congressman from Baltimore County has a vision for the state.

The telephone poll was conducted among 902 registered voters June 19 to Sunday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan dropped out of the race the week of the poll, leaving O'Malley as the remaining major Democrat to oppose Ehrlich in the fall.

Ehrlich declined to comment, but aides said they did not believe he trailed by such a large margin; communications director Paul E. Schurick said the campaign's most recent poll, conducted in mid-May, showed O'Malley ahead by 5 points.

"We've always known this was going to be an incredibly difficult and close race," Schurick said. "But there is something in this poll that strikes us as wrong."

O'Malley said the poll showed more than simply Democrats supporting a Democrat.

"There are a number of issues that have defined who our current governor is," O'Malley said. "The choices he's made are not in the best interests of expanding the middle class and helping our working families. . . . People feel that our state is moving in the wrong direction, and they're smart enough to know we need effective leadership."

Reelection campaigns are most often considered referendums on the incumbent, and the poll offers both good and bad news for Ehrlich.

He has lost support among independents, women and voters in the central part of the state where he put together a historic win four years ago. Democrats who took a chance on him then seem ready to return to the fold for O'Malley.

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