Maryland Primary Preview

John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 11, 2008; 10:00 AM

Washington Post Maryland political reporter John Wagner was online Monday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. ET to take your questions about Tuesday's presidential and congressional primaries in the state, including the heated Wynn-Edwards fight for Maryland's Fourth Congressional District.

The transcript follows.


John Wagner: Thanks for joining me today for a chat about tomorrow's primaries in Maryland, part of what alternately is being called the Potomac primaries and the Chesapeake primaries, with Virginia and the District holding nominating contests on the same day. The candidates will be making several appearances in the state today. John McCain just wrapped up a news conference in Annapolis, Md. I welcome your questions.


Philadelphia: What percent of Maryland Democrats are white, black and Hispanic, and do polls show about how each ethnic group within Maryland favors Clinton or Obama? Are there projected turnout rates for each ethnic group?

John Wagner: In Maryland's 2004 presidential primary, African Americans accounted for about 35 percent of Democratic voters. Many party insiders expect that figure to be significantly higher tomorrow, both because of excitement about the Obama campaign and because of a hotly contested congressional race between Rep. Al Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards in a district that includes much of Prince George's County -- one of the most affluent, majority-African-American jurisdictions in the country.

The African American vote is expected to break heavily in Sen. Obama's direction, but Sen. Clinton has some high-profile African American supporters as well, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson.

If other states are any indication, Sen. Clinton may fare better among Hispanic voters here, but they make up a relatively small, albeit growing, segment of the electorate.


Takoma Park, Md.: Hey, I haven't gotten a single mailer, been visited by a canvasser, received any phone calls (not even a push poll!) or found any literature shoved under my door. What happened to all the attention we were supposed to get? I want to be pandered to! I'm in deep-blue Chris Van Hollen land, which you'd think would be a trove of votes for one side or the other in the Democratic primary, but ... nothing.

John Wagner: That's interesting. We know that both campaigns have been active in going door to door and phone-banking. The short span of the election may provide part of the answer. The campaigns have really only ramped up in Maryland in the past week or so. It may be that no one has hit your neighborhood yet.

We're only seeing the candidates themselves show up in the final days before tomorrow's voting.


Columbia, Md.: Too much has been made about the black vote for Obama. What is most impressive is how Obama has crushed Hillary in states with primarily white populations -- his margin of victory in many of those states has been almost two-to-one. There are very few states where Hillary has won where she even has come close to such a margin of victory. Why aren't the margins of victory reported more?

John Wagner: Your point about Obama winning in some predominantly white states, starting with Iowa, is a valid one -- African Americans certainly are not the only demographic that has found him appealing. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine sought to make that point yesterday during a segment on ABC News's "This Week" in which he faced off against Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who supports Clinton.

I would suggest, however, that our reporting on this past weekend's contests certainly emphasized the margin of victory for Obama in those states.


San Francisco: What impact might The Washington Post endorsement on Saturday have on the congressional primary? Presumably, it's the hometown paper for lots of 4th District voters -- does the endorsement give Donna Edwards establishment credibility with Democrats who may have been reluctant to vote against Wynn? Editorial: For the House in Maryland (Post, Feb. 9)

John Wagner: The Post's endorsement does provide some establishment credibility at a key time for Edwards. It's hard to gauge what impact it will have ultimately, though. One sign that her campaign was glad to get it was the speed at which the endorsement was sent around to supporters by e-mail.


Silver Spring, Md.: I am truly undecided between Obama and Clinton. I like Obama because of his background in community organizing and his ability to unite people, but I truly am concerned with his lack of national experience. If he had four more years in the Senate with a record of leadership, I would be his No. 1 booster! I like Hilary's Senate experience and knowledge, but am concerned that she is too polarizing. I have changed my mind about who I'll vote for about eight times in the past week. If I could have any choice, it would be Al Gore. Which do you see offering better support for D.C.-area needs, such as initiatives to boost public transportation in urban areas and incentives (both carrot and stick) for renewable energy and energy efficiency?

John Wagner: As reporters we're generally reluctant to answer questions that call for our opinions on issues like these, but I thought I would post your question and instead invite others taking part in the chat to offer their thoughts. I imagine many others find themselves torn between the candidates, as you are.


Richmond, Va.: First, who would have thought that Virginia, the District and Maryland would have been relevant -- but here we are! Also, how many advisors can you have? In today's Post, on a story about Clinton's campaign manager switch, and after listing Penn, Wolfson, Grunwald, Tanden, Ickes, Bill Clinton loyalists, etc., it said she recently brought in these people: Doug Sosnik, former White House political director; Steve Richetti and Linda Moore Forbes, both of whom served as in the Clinton White House; Doug Hattaway, a veteran of the Gore campaign; Roy Spence, a longtime friend of both the senator and the former president. Wow! Is that where lots of the money is going, and why she needed to lend the campaign $5 million? Does having so many cooks work? Clinton Replaces Top Aide Amid Losses (Post, Feb. 11)

John Wagner: It is not uncommon for well-funded campaigns to have many advisers and consultants, but your point is a valid one -- too much advice can be paralyzing. I would invite you to pose your question during a chat on national politics with Shailagh Murray, coming up at 11 a.m.


TeddyRoosevelt: On "This Week" O'Malley demonstrated he has passed the course in Clintonspeak -- he barely avoided any opportunity to say anything truthful. However, his superego let slip: "Sen. Clinton is doing the very best she can." That's some triumphant endorsement, and a sober dose of truth.

John Wagner: I believe your quote is accurate, but to be fair, O'Malley also touted Clinton's experience and toughness in trying to make the case that she would be the best president.


Cheverly, Md.: Honestly, I never have heard from Wynn nor noticed his impact, but for this election his supporters called my house on average two or three times per hour this weekend. In one call he stated Edwards did not file taxes for five years or so and was disbarred ... is any of that true?

John Wagner: Edwards has acknowledged that tax liens were at one time filed against her Prince George's County home when she was struggling financially. She has said all have been released.

My colleague Roz Helderman recently posted an item about this on our Maryland Moment politics blog.


robinficker: Obama is opposed to special interest control; therefore, every thinking Obama supporter should vote for Al Wynn and reject the nasty, scummy, out-of-state campaign being waged against him by Donna Edwards and her "independent" supporters. She says they are "independent," yet she quotes them in her literature which is "Paid for and Authorized by Donna Edwards for Congress." The Post reported that 85 percent of Edwards's contributors are from outside of Maryland. Outside contributors are paying her because they know she will support them over the 4th District. Obama rejects campaigns funded the way Edwards's is.

John Wagner: Thanks for your thoughts. I'm not sure there's a question here...


Rockville, Md.: I wrote to my political leaders on Friday (O'Malley, Mikulski, Cardin and Van Hollen) asking that they only cast their superdelegate vote for the person their constituencies vote for, regardless of the outcome. It seems only fair. Do you think there is any chance of that happening?

John Wagner: O'Malley and Mikulski have played prominent roles in Clinton's campaign, so it would seem unlikely that they would cast superdelegate votes for Obama in the event he wins the state. Meanwhile, Cardin and Van Hollen have not endorsed a candidate yet. Although it looks increasingly likely that superdelegates could play a role in deciding the nomination, it remains too early to tell for certain.


Washington: Thanks for doing this chat! Where will Clinton, Obama, Huckabee and McCain be in the D.C. metro area tomorrow?

John Wagner: We still are awaiting their schedules. My guess is that some of the candidates will move on to other states with upcoming contests. We will let you know what we know in tomorrow's paper.


Northwest Washington: From what I understand the gay community backs Hillary because she has been a longtime advocate for gay rights. If that truly is the case, do you see her getting any sort of unexpected boost in the District tomorrow?

John Wagner: Perhaps, but I think most analysts would agree that the District is the most difficult contest for Clinton of the three being held tomorrow.


Voting for delegates in Md.: I'm confused as to why we vote for both the candidates and for the convention delegates in Maryland. Can you explain? Sorry if this is an inappropriate forum for this question, but I haven't been able to find the answer anywhere.

John Wagner: Convention delegates are awarded on the basis of how a state votes. The process differs depending on both the party and the state. Republicans typically hold winner-take-all contests, in which the candidate with the most votes gets all the pledged delegates; the Democrats tend to apportion delegates based on who prevails in individual congressional districts and other factors. States also have superdelegates, who are not bound by the way their electorate votes.


New York: Please tell "robinficker" that we're "especially" "interested" in having crooked and Republican-appeasing Democrats like Al Wynn replaced by committed progressives, hence our support for Donna Edwards.

John Wagner: I will let you do that yourself.


Palo Alto, Calif.: I really, really like Sen. Clinton's policies. What are her chances?

John Wagner: Polls have shown her trailing in the jurisdictions holding primaries tomorrow -- but one lesson of this cycle is that campaigns can be full of surprises.


San Francisco: My wife and I went through Yale Law with the Clintons and worked on Bill's 1992 campaign. Now we're enthusiastic Obama supporters, but not working on the campaign. Are many old, prominent Clinton hands -- other than Bob Reich -- helping Obama on his campaign?

John Wagner: Obama has tapped Clinton aides for foreign policy advice. But on this question as well, I would invite you to tap the wisdom of my colleague Shailagh Murray, who will host a chat on national politics in just a few minutes.


John Wagner: Thanks for all your great questions today. I must return to reporting on the races.


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