Every indication is that she’s taking it seriously; she is well aware of what’s happened to some of her colleagues. But she remains the most popular elected official in Maryland, so the tide would have to rise pretty high to sweep her out.
How has she been able to sustain her level of popularity while her colleagues in other states have seen their approval ratings dive?
The blue nature of the state contributes to it. Though, she has also gained over the years a solid record for constituent service and has been very skillful at positioning herself as a fighter for the little guy. In the 2002 governor’s race, a lot of the Democrats, through the Democratic candidates, lost blue collar Democrats. Mikulski has been more successful retaining and connecting with them.
What effect does Maryland’s proximity to D.C. have on the 2010 race?
There is some belief that, given the large number of federal employees and people whose livelihoods are connected to the federal government, there isn’t as much of the anger at the federal government driving some of the results we’re seeing in other states. The Tea Party movement really hasn’t taken root in Maryland to the degree that it has in some other states. I think some of that probably does have to do with the relatively large number of people who either work for or have some connection to the federal government.
How have national outlets done in covering the Maryland race so far?
I don’t recall seeing anything that struck me as completely out of whack. Plus, I think that there are so many other competitive races this year that it’s probably hard to devote too much attention to a race in Maryland. If the Republican wins in Maryland then it’s certainly going to be a big night for Republicans around the country.
One aspect that has gotten some play, though, is the number of former governors who are now seeking their jobs back, and Ehrlich fits into that category—he’s fallen into a number of those pieces.
Have the candidates been handling the media any differently this election cycle?
Certainly not among the leading candidates in Maryland. Both of the guys in the governor’s race are such known quantities, so well known among the political class in Maryland, that they haven’t done too much differently. Ehrlich is very accessible and will take questions from reporters until, as he says, he’s defeated us and we can’t think of anything else.
There has been though an increased use in social media. Ehrlich is very into his Facebook page and uses that, I suppose, to get the unfiltered message out there. And Ehrlich’s press secretary is a former TV presenter in Baltimore and he’s been cutting these videos for online that are faux news reports—if you were to watch it, you might recognize this guy from a decade ago and think it was a real news report. But it’s very heavily explanatory of the candidate. That’s been an interesting wrinkle, though it hasn’t been dominant at this point.