Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane has accused the state's mainstream media of "Dan Rather syndrome."

The alleged condition, named for the CBS News TV anchor, who initially dismissed questions about the authenticity of memos cited in a "60 Minutes" segment, stems from a recent pair of polls that showed President Bush closing the gap in the state against Democratic candidate John F. Kerry.

Neither poll has been widely reported, in part because of questions about the methodology.

One poll released Sept. 20 by Survey USA showed the race to be tied at 48 percent in Maryland, a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1. The company that conducts the poll uses an automated calling system, which is generally considered less reliable than human interviewers. The other poll, released Sept. 29 by Rasmussen Reports, showed Kerry with a three-point lead over Bush, 48 percent to 45 percent. It was conducted over a two-week period and had a margin of error larger than that of other recent polls.

"The majority of the mainstream media are ignoring legitimate news," Kane said. "Anyone can sit there and try to discount a poll's validity and methodology and give credence to one polling organization over another, but when you have two polls in two weeks showing similar results and reflecting trends nationwide . . . there has to be some duty to at least report the political connotations behind such results," Kane said.

Democrat Al Gore carried Maryland over Bush in 2000 by 17 points, and other recent polls using more conventional methodology have shown Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, with a comfortable lead in the state heading into next month. A poll by American Research Group last month, for example, showed Kerry leading 52 percent to 43 percent.

Neither candidate has spent much time in the state, and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) recently publicly advised Bush to focus his energies elsewhere.

Gambling Is Green?

Ehrlich offered yet another rationale for bringing slot machine gambling to Maryland during a tour Oct. 1 of a Cecil County horse farm: It would be good for the environment.

Unless slots are allowed to fatten racing purses and keep horse farms viable, the state's rural landscape could be overtaken by sprawling suburban development, Ehrlich warned.

That notion was ridiculed by several speakers at last weekend's Progressive Summit, a meeting organized by liberal Democrats, many of whom oppose slots.

"The governor is now trying to convince us this is an environmental issue," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "I think the governor has it backwards. It is gambling that will cause pollution: pollution in communities all across this state with increased crime, drug addiction, small business failures and a deterioration of our Maryland values."

Family Matters

At the summit, Duncan and Democratic Party Chairman Ike Leggett told the crowd in back-to-back speeches about something the two share: Both grew up in families of 13 children.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, who, like Duncan, is eyeing a 2006 gubernatorial bid, acknowledged that he didn't quite measure up.

"We were a small Irish Catholic family of only six," O'Malley said, noting that others in the parish thought perhaps they were "Lutheran spies."

What to Do

The summit featured four panel discussions with titles that more than hinted of the group's bent:

* "A Cleaner Maryland: How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are ruining Maryland's environment, and what we can do about it."

* "A Healthier Maryland: How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are denying senior citizens, children and working families prescription drug coverage, and what we can do about it."

* "A Better Educated Maryland: How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are under-funding education and leaving children behind, and what we can do about it."

* "Investing in Maryland's Future: How George Bush and Robert Ehrlich are reducing investments in our future, and what we can do about it."