Maryland 2010 Governor's race: Two polls show O'Malley up 14, why can't Ehrlich close the gap?

Welcome to The Rally. Every weekday morning from now until election day, TBD will tell you what you need to know about the Maryland governor’s race. The showdown between incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley and Republican former governor Bob Ehrlich is in the homestretch, and TBD is prepared to dish about the race’s debates, polls, issues, endorsements and controversies from now until Nov. 2.

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(Photo: Jay Westcott)

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MD-GOV: Two polls show O'Malley up 14, why Ehrlich can't close the gap

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TWO MEANS TROUBLE. BIG TROUBLE.

On Sunday, the Baltimore Sun released a poll from OpinionWorks showing O'Malley leading his Republican challenger by a whopping 14 percentage points. The Ehrlich campaign pushed back, and even the paper's own editorial board expressed doubts about the size of the lead. Ehrlich said the poll went against the trend line showing a race that was tightening.

"I think a bunch of new Americans might have been in that poll," Ehrlich said during his rally with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, referencing O'Malley's euphemism for illegal immigrants.

On Monday, the Washington Post released its new poll, showing an identical 14 point lead.

Combined, the two polls can't be looked at as outliers, particularly when they come from the state's two dominant media outlets. Eight days from the election, a sizable O'Malley win is the conventional wisdom.

Is the wisdom fair? Ehrlich and Giuliani both said pollsters were underestimating the size of this year's Republican wave, which is possible. But the Sun pointed out their poll has higher-than-average Republican turnout.

Ehrlich also has been pointing to the Gonzales Research poll that shows him down by only five points. Comparing the Post and Sun surveys to that one isn't quite comparing apples and oranges, but it is comparing Red Deliciouses to Macintoshes. If you keep the pollster consistent, all the movement in the race since mid-summer has favored O'Malley.

Heading into this weekend, it actually appeared if the Republican had seized some momentum. The Gonzales poll showed O'Malley's lead shrinking, and Ehrlich had managed to outraise the Democrat during the last campaign finance period, giving him more cash-on-hand heading into the race's final days.

AND WHY CAN’T EHRLICH CLOSE THE GAP?

Take it away, Washington Post:

Strip away its 2-to-1 advantage for registered Democrats, its black-and-white divides and other filters most often used to shorthand Maryland elections and one slice of voters Ehrlich seemingly should have been able connect with - those hit hardest in the pocketbook - has remained decidedly elusive...

...In dozens of interviews statewide over the past month with those who have either lost jobs or have family members out of work, a three-part answer might best explain why Ehrlich's seemingly attractive platform of lower taxes and more jobs has failed to take hold among a swath of the state's economically challenged that is easily large enough to affect Maryland's election.

One: Unemployed and struggling voters aren't hearing Ehrlich's message, but they are hearing O'Malley's. Two: If they understand why Ehrlich says he's running, they don't necessarily believe he can deliver on taxes or jobs. And three: The skepticism seems rooted partly in O'Malley's negative portrayal of Ehrlich's record as governor and his work in the four years since for a law firm connected to oil and banking industries.

RUDY’S RALLY

Giuliani's stop on a farm in Clarksburg was clearly aimed at firing up the Republican base. He was withering (if not always accurate) in his assaults on O'Malley before a crowd of about 300. He called the Democrat a "deadbeat," a "welcher," the "most anti-business governor in the county," and "anti-police." Even Ehrlich joked about how unsubtle the slams were.

Ehrlich and "America's Mayor" were effusive in their praise for one another, and talked about how they were personal friends and often golfed with one another. At the end of the rally, Ehrlich said he didn't think his friend was done with national politics and could make another run for president.

SMITH ISLAND CAKEGATE

In a stunning revelation Sunday, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy accused O'Malley of not paying for a Smith Island Cake.

QUICK HITS

Comparing and contrasting Ehrlich and O'Malley's stances on environmental policy. (The Capital)

Ehrlich moves left on criminal justice, O'Malley swerves right. (The Sun)

Both candidates attend funeral for Betty Peebles. (Post)

Final pre-election jobs report shows employment up, but unemployment rate raises. Nothing to sway the election here. (Gazette)

Greater Greater Washington endorses O'Malley. (Greater Greater Washington)

DGA bashes Rhode Island candidate who wants to increase sales tax. Is it hypocrisy? (Sun)

Ehrlich campaigns in Boonsboro, arrives by helicopter. (Hagerstown Herald-Mail)

TODAY'S SCHEDULE

Ehrlich running mate Mary Kane goes to an early voting center in Rockville at 10 a.m., then heads to a Frederick church at 11:30 a.m.

At 2 p.m., Ehrlich holds a press conference at pub in Essex to outline what he would do during his hypothetical first week as governor.

O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown start their day at 10:30 a.m. at City Dock in Annapolis. O'Malley heads to the Eastern Shore, stopping in Centreville, Easton, Cambridge and Salisbury.

Brown goes to Prince George's, campaigning in Hyattsville, Oxon Hill and Landover.

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