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2016 Presidential Election

Donald Trump tops GOP field in centrist Maryland, new poll finds

Donald Trump holds a nine-point lead over Ted Cruz in Md.

Donald Trump is leading the Republican presidential field in Maryland and has broad support in a state where GOP voters have traditionally backed centrist, establishment candidates, a new poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore has found.

The New York businessman — who has tied the GOP in knots with an unorthodox campaign and a sizable string of victories — has support from more than one third of likely voters in Maryland's Republican primary. That represents a nine-point lead over the next closest competitor for the nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Though its late-in-the-cycle April 26 primary election diminishes Maryland's status in the presidential nomination process, the poll underscores national narratives about Trump's appeal to a wide swath of GOP voters, from conservative evangelicals to blue-collar workers.

Trump is leading with men and women, rural voters and those who describe themselves as conservative, according to the poll. Cruz, who has emerged as Trump's most significant threat, does better among those who describe themselves as "very conservative" and voters under 35.

"Trump is picking up support across the political spectrum," said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks, the Annapolis-based firm that conducted the poll. "He's receiving support regardless of political philosophy."

The poll, which was conducted from March 4 to March 8, has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

After winning the Michigan and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday with wide margins, Trump has captured more than one third of the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination at the party's convention this summer in Cleveland. Polls show he has a wide lead in next week's winner-take-all primary in Florida, and a more narrow advantage in Ohio, where he will compete with that state's incumbent governor, John Kasich.

Kasich finished third in the poll, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came in last.

The poll may provide a measure of political cover to Gov. Larry Hogan, a centrist who has been under pressure from Democrats in the state to say whether he will support the real estate mogul if he wins the GOP nomination. Hogan previously supported and campaigned for Chris Christie until the New Jersey governor dropped out of the race last month.

Hogan has said he's "not endorsing anybody" in the primary.

In a measure of how Trump has threatened the political establishment, deep-pocketed groups like the conservative Club for Growth have blanketed the airwaves in key primary states such as Florida in a late bid to undermine him, or at least slow him down. Republican leaders in Washington have crafted plans to topple him at the party's convention.

That's just fine with John Norman, a 62-year-old Trump supporter from Finksburg. If anything, all the push back on Trump from within the party makes him more appealing, Norman said.

"I don't like what the establishment is doing to him, so I'm going to vote for him," the retired Baltimore police officer said. "People are tired of the lying; they're tired of the establishment. Trump is basically telling people what they want to hear."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

About the poll

Results are based on a survey of 400 likely Maryland Republican primary voters. The poll was done by OpinionWorks of Annapolis for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore's College of Public Affairs and Schaefer Center for Public Policy. The survey was conducted by telephone, both land-based and cellular, by trained interviewers from March 4 to March 8. Voters were randomly selected for interviews from a voter file provided by the State Board of Elections. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

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