John Bolton says Md. is "winnable" for GOP

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, appeared at a fundraiser in Washington on Tuesday for Republican Senate candidate Richard J. Douglas, telling about two dozen supporters that Maryland "is a winnable state" for the GOP with the right candidate.

Bolton, a Baltimore native who lives in Montgomery County, acknowledged that Maryland is "a tough state for a Republican" -- Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, for instance, won reelection with 62 percent of the vote in 2010 -- but suggested that this year "a lot of incumbent Democrats are going to be overly confident" because "they haven't faced effective challenges in the past."


Douglas is seeking the seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.

In addition to Bolton's endorsement, Douglas, 55, brings a hefty resume to the Republican primary, including a stint as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under Bush and five years on Capitol Hill as a senior attorney to two high-profile Senate committees. He's an Iraq veteran, served on fast attack submarines in the Navy in the 1970s and appears to be plugged in to defense and diplomatic circles in Washington.


The College Park resident said he is running for the seat because of what he views as a lack of leadership in Washington. Douglas has promised to force uncomfortable votes in the Senate, even if that means alienating fellow Republicans. He also has vowed to serve a maximum of two terms.

"My assessment today of the U.S. Congress is that Maryland has one senator -- her name is Barbara Mikulski," Douglas told supporters Tuesday. "Nevada has three…Looking at Mr. Cardin's record, it appears to be skewed towards the majority leader's priorities," he said, referring to Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, who represents the Silver State.

But Douglas is unquestionably an underdog in the race. First, he is one in a crowded, 10-candidate field in the GOP primary that includes Dan Bongino, a Severna Park man who has effectively used his background as a former Secret Service agent to bring national attention to his campaign. Bongino got into the race early and has been campaigning aggressively.

Campaign finance reports show that, at the end of 2011, Bongino had raised about $130,000 compared with about $17,000 for Douglas.

Though he shuns characterizations, Douglas appears to be aligned more closely with the centrist wing of the party. Several supporters at the fundraiser Tuesday are also close to former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., for instance.  Bongino has courted conservatives, has appeared on Glenn Beck's program and chose Brian Murphy as a campaign chair. Murphy ran to the right of Ehrlich in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary.

Even if Douglas manages to win the nomination, he would be running in an overwhelmingly blue state and would likely face a popular and experienced incumbent who has made few if any missteps. Cardin, who has a primary challenge of his own from state Sen. C. Anthony Muse, had a 51 percent approval rating in a January poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies.

Cardin's fundraising has eclipsed all other candidates. He has more than $2.6 million on hand.