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Thursday, April 06, 2006

MD-Sen: Can Steele Actually Draw Black Votes?

Posted by DavidNYC

Conflicting reports:

An internal document prepared by a top Democratic strategist warns that a majority of African American voters in Maryland are open to supporting Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele and advises the party not to wait to "knock Steele down."

The 37-page report says a sizable segment of likely black voters -- as much as 44 percent -- would readily abandon their historic Democratic allegiances "after hearing Steele's messaging."

"Governor Ehrlich and [Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele have a clear ability to break through the Democratic stronghold among African American voters in Maryland," says the March 27 report by Cornell Belcher, polling consultant for the Democratic National Committee, which bases its findings on a survey of 489 black voters in Maryland conducted last month.


If the findings of the poll are correct, they paint a somewhat different vision of the black electorate from what has been commonly understood to this point, said David Bositis, a senior research associate at the D.C.-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Bositis said nothing in his research suggests that an African American Republican will be able to grab a significant segment of the black vote.

The DNC survey finds that 22 percent of black voters support Steele when matched against a "generic" Democrat.

"There's just no way it's that high," Bositis said, noting that Steele's performance among black voters in the 2002 election did not approach that number. "If he was that much of a draw then it's doubtful he would only have received 13 percent of the black vote."

I don't want to believe only that which I'd like to believe, hence I remain vigilant about Steele's chances among the African American community. However - and this is a big however - the internal DNC poll sounds like a classic message-testing poll. We all know that those kinds of polls, with their captive audiences listening to a candidate's entire messaging package, don't reflect how politics works. Few voters will ever seriously tune in to a single message of Steele's, let alone the entire kit-n-kaboodle. Message-testing polls are great for precisely that - testing a message, not taking the temperature of the electorate.

Of course, when Cornell Belcher says we shouldn't wait to knock Steele down... well obviously, on that front, I couldn't agree more. And it shouldn't be too hard:

A message that resonated with black voters identified Steele as "George W. Bush's hand-picked candidate," the survey found. It's a message Democrats have tried to exploit. Even as Walker discussed the findings, he pointed to a photograph hanging in his office -- it shows Steele and Bush arm in arm.

The poll finds that only 8 percent of black voters in Maryland approve of the president's performance. And it signals that early support Steele has received from Bush and his advisers will rub black voters the wrong way.

Now that's a simple message that's easy to push and easy for voters to take home.

Posted at 12:59 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Maryland | Technorati

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Going under the assumption that Ben Cardin beats Mfume in the primary, I'm expecting a temporary backlash against African-Americans that could boost Steele's short-term numbers. As the ideological connection to Bush, Inc. is spelled out though, Steele's share of the black vote should end up far closer to the 8% level (Bush approval rating) than the nightmare 44% scenario the Dem document suggests.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 03:09 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I wouldn't make that assumption just yet. The demographics of the Democratic primary really favor Mfume.

Posted by: DavidG [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2006 07:41 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

A possible reflection of the "Black Vote" is Baltimore City.
In 2002 Erlich/Steele (they run together) pulled 24% of the vote in Baltimore City. By comparison the Gop candidates for Atty Gen & Comptroller polled 11%. In 2004 Bush won 17% and Sen Miklulski's opponent polled 12%.
Erlich/Steele won the State approx 52-48%.
Here is the link to Maryland Election Results info:

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 12:23 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Impact with white voters: Alleghany County predominately white & republican gave Kerry 35.8% of the vote while he carried the State handily. Whereas Townsend/Larson managed to pull 35.2% of the vote while losing the State.
Proportionally Townsend/Larson should have done alot worse here (like in the 30% or less range).

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 12:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Maryland is not known to be a very conservative state, hopefully Cardin will be able to target Steele on his links to Bush and the following stances (from Wikipedia):
"Steele is pro-life on the issue of abortion, and opposes federal funding for stem cell research. He supports free trade, tax cuts, school vouchers to move kids out of failing public school systems, supports welfare reform and tort reform, opposes gay adoption and supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Steele additionally opposes affirmative action and allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military."

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 01:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment