Marylanders head elsewhere to drum up votes

With primary battles settled, the conventions over and the general election less than two months away, Democrats and Republicans now turn to the end game: reaching out to persuade the few remaining undecided voters that their nominee is the one to solve the nation's problems.

For campaign volunteers in deep-blue Maryland, that often means traveling elsewhere.


With the state expected to give its 10 electoral votes in November to President Barack Obama — Maryland has backed the Democrat in each of the past five presidential elections, and went for Obama by a 25-point margin in 2008 — activists from both parties are fanning out to Pennsylvania, Virginia and battlegrounds beyond.

"Maryland is a state where we should be helping our neighbors who have a little bit more chance to add to the Electoral College," said Chris Cavey, vice chairman of the Maryland delegation to the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa, Fla., and a member of the state steering committee for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.


"Certainly, we're going to have a presence here," Cavey said. "[But] if Governor Romney wins in Maryland, he's most likely already won 47 other states."

As Cavey leads busloads of volunteers to knock on doors in Pennsylvania, he might run into Kathleen Miller.

The Timonium resident, a delegate to the Democratic National Convention last week in Charlotte, N.C., says she'll spend every weekend from now until the election knocking on doors, staffing phone banks and attending rallies — all in the Keystone State.

She also campaigned there for Obama in 2008. When asked by voters where she's from, she said, "I'm glad to say that I'm from Baltimore, to impress on them how important this is."

Four years ago, Maryland trailed only California as an exporter of campaign volunteers, according to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a veteran national campaigner. The Southern Maryland Democrat expects similar outbound traffic this fall.

"Maryland will be sending a lot of people because the ground game is significant," Hoyer said. "People still respond to personal attention — knocking on doors, getting a telephone call. That's why we're sending buses into Northern Virginia."

Maryland's role in the race isn't unusual. At this stage in the presidential race, independent analysts see only about 10 states as toss-ups. It's these battlegrounds — Florida, Ohio and Michigan are the largest — that the campaigns and parties are lavishing with candidate visits, advertising, voter registration drives and other attention.

(Marylanders who live within viewing distance of the Washington or Philadelphia media markets, with their incessant political advertising aimed at Virginia and Pennsylvania voters, are getting a sense of life in a swing state during the campaign season.)

The campaigns are mining the 40 states seen as already decided for funding and for volunteers willing to travel — or at least to make phone calls to voters who live in states still in play.

This is not to say that local party leaders can ignore their own backyards. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, warned the Maryland delegation in Charlotte that Democrats in both states must stay vigilant at home to ensure that the dynamics do not change.

Resources the Obama campaign has to spend defending Maryland or New York — each of which gave Obama more than 60 percent of their votes four years ago — are resources that cannot be used to win North Carolina, Virginia or Wisconsin.

"We both are strong, diverse Democratic states," Schumer said. "We have to make sure he doesn't have to pay attention, in a certain sense, to Maryland or New York. Our job is make sure he can focus on those swing states that win the election."


Conversely, the Republicans' job, as it applies to the Democratic strongholds, is to spread the field — to put more blue states in play.

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, says Romney has a "good chance" of winning here.

He points to the GOP nominee's victory in the 2002 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts — one of the few states more deeply Democratic than Maryland — and recent statewide wins for Republicans in Illinois, Wisconsin and other traditionally blue states.

Ferguson also notes GOP gains in voter registration here: He says the party has overtaken Democrats in Cecil, Calvert and St. Mary's counties, and is looking to pick up one or two more before the election.

The Romney campaign has named coordinators in all 24 Maryland jurisdictions, and volunteers have been staffing county fairs, posting lawn signs and making telephone calls.

Romney's "vision of freedom and opportunity and putting Americans back to work will resonate from every corner of Maryland," Ferguson said. "I don't care if you're in Ocean City or Hagerstown."

There are issues on the November ballot to keep Maryland activists in the state. Among other referendum questions, voters will decide whether the state will recognize same-sex marriage and whether its public colleges and universities will extend in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants.

And in Western Maryland, there's a competitive race in the 6th District, where Democrat John Delaney is challenging Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in a congressional district redrawn by Democrats in Annapolis to give the party a chance at a pickup.

Much of the presidential contest, however, is being waged elsewhere. Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., honorary chairman of the Romney campaign in Maryland, went to York, Pa., last month to open a campaign office and plans more trips.

Ehrlich enjoys high name recognition in the York area, home to Maryland transplants and commuters.

Sen. Ben Cardin campaigned for Obama in Florida before the Republican convention, speaking at senior centers, private homes and campaign field offices.

"We'll do the same thing in Pennsylvania," the Maryland Democrat said. "We'll do the same thing in Virginia."

Although Florida voters might not be familiar with Maryland politicians, such campaigning generates media coverage, Cardin said, and tells voters that their state is important enough that the party is calling in leaders from elsewhere.

Miller, the Obama delegate, says she's spending so much time in Pennsylvania that she will likely have to vote by absentee ballot in Maryland.

Maryland Democrats gather at about a dozen locations each weekend for daylong trips into Virginia and Pennsylvania. Miller's group usually winds up in southern Pennsylvania cities such as York and Lancaster. She says that the northern part of the state receives volunteers from New York.

Cavey, the Romney steering committee member, said he is working with campaign officials in Pennsylvania to organize trips there — "very similar to what we did during the [John] McCain campaign [in 2008], deployed into certain areas as Team Romney in Pennsylvania sees fit."

Similar plans are under way, he said, for trips from the Washington suburbs and Southern Maryland to Northern Virginia.


And for those unable or disinclined to travel, both campaigns are employing technology to help volunteers contact swing-state voters without leaving home. The Obama and Romney websites include sections that enable supporters to log in and dial strangers with their pitches for their candidates.


"You can sit at home and you can make a hundred calls, and the national campaign can direct them any way they want to at any time," Cavey said of the Romney program. "It's a very cool system."



Election guide

Find out about candidates for Congress from Maryland. Go to baltimoresun.com/electionguide201

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