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Could it be that one of the congressmen representing Owings Mills and part of Reisterstown is going to be running for another office next April?

If you read The Washington Post you might think so.

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The Post conducted a poll of questionable reliability that concluded Rep. Elijah Cummings — whose House district takes in a good chunk of western and northern Baltimore County, as well as much of Baltimore city — would be a winner in next year's U.S. Senate race.

Longtime incumbent Democrat Barbara Mikulski is retiring. Neither of the two main contenders to succeed her, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County and Rep. Donna Edwards of Prince George's County, has excited much local interest to date.

But when Cummings' well-known name is mentioned in the Post poll, he zooms far ahead of the others. He gets 33 percent, whereas Van Hollen and Edwards each get 20 percent.

Don't put too much faith in the Post poll numbers, though. They are seriously flawed.

First, it is way too early to take accurate polls about an event — the Democratic primary — that is six months away. If early polls had proved correct in prior elections, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Anthony Brown would have been elected governor in landslides. Instead, both Townsend and Brown lost despite doing exceptionally well in polls six months before actual voting.

The major problem with the Post poll is that it raised the question about the U.S. Senate race with only 550 people — and many of them aren't even registered Democrats. That error by the pollsters skews the results beyond recognition. Independents cannot participate in Maryland's Democratic primary next April, when Van Hollen, Edwards and possibly Cummings duke it out.

The third difficulty with the Post poll is the sample size. It's way too small. One-third of poll respondents were independents; only 550 people were asked about the Democratic primary race.

That means about 370 Democrats were asked about the Senate contest. Respected polling organizations usually survey 1,000 to 2,000 people to gain accurate snapshots of voter sentiment.

As of last week, Cummings was still considering his options, and that's understandable.

He's already one of the most prominent African-American voices in the Congress.

He's a vocal defender of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against Republican attempts to smear her for the death of a U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya.

He's the most forceful foe of GOP efforts to drag down other members of the Obama administration.

He's got seniority that makes him a national spokesman on many of the most pressing issues facing Congress.

Why should Cummings give all this up for a seat in the Senate, where he would be one of the most junior and least influential members? Cummings might announce his decision soon. Winning a Senate seat is no sure thing. He'd risk a lot by giving up his current job.

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Barry Rascovar, of Reisterstown, writes a blog at www.politicalmaryland.com, and can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

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