In the midterm election, Democratic President Joe Biden is facing tough odds to keep control of Congress and elect more Democrats to governors’ offices and state legislatures.
While Maryland Democrats appear poised to buck that trend and Biden has twice visited the state during the campaign, the news here still isn’t all rosy for the president. A new poll from Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore found nearly a third of the state’s likely Democratic voters say Biden should not run for president again.
What’s more, when asked if the two-party system is effectively representing the public, nearly half all voters polled said they would like to see a third major party enter the mix.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore, a first-time candidate who’s run an energetic and well-funded campaign, leads Republican Del. Dan Cox 58% to 27% among likely voters, according to the poll. Moore also has more crossover supporters from Republicans and unaffiliated voters in a state where any Republican needs crossover support to win. The margin of error for the Sun/UB poll by OpinionWorks of Annapolis is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The rest of the members of the Democratic Party’s statewide slate have similarly large leads, while Biden maintains a relatively high approval rating in Maryland — 54% approve to 42% disapprove — comparable to national surveys, the poll shows.
But asked whether Biden should run in 2024, 44% of Democrats said he should, 31% said he should not and 24% said they were not sure or “it depends.”
“That’s striking, and especially in a state like Maryland,” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “If that’s playing out in parts of other states, there’s going to be question marks about who else wants to step up and run.”
If Democratic challengers run without a clear indication of who 2024 primary voters will coalesce around, it immediately takes away the party’s incumbency advantage in that general election, Hartley said.
“If Biden steps back, it makes the opportunity for a Republican to win go up a lot,” he said. Biden said Oct. 21 he’s made no formal decision, but intends to run again.
Such is the backdrop for the elections this fall and potentially the next two years in Maryland politics as Moore, a veteran and former nonprofit leader, is expected to defeat Cox and succeed two-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Maryland governors are limited to two terms in office.
Hogan, a moderate who is considering battling former President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, is viewed favorably by seven of 10 Maryland voters, the poll found. His appeal crosses over almost equally among Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated voters.
At the same time, Hogan’s critical comments of Cox appear to have had little effect. Asked whether Hogan’s opposition to the Republican nominee — an ardent Trump supporter who sought to have Hogan impeached during the COVID-19 pandemic — made any impact on their decision to support Cox, nearly half Republicans and unaffiliated voters said it had no impact.
While more unaffiliated voters viewed Hogan’s criticism as a reason to not support Cox, more Republicans, 32%, said they were actually more likely to support Cox because of Hogan’s opposition than the 17% who said it made them less likely to vote for Cox.
“Whatever Hogan says, I’m not too sure about,” said Clarence Rakow, a Republican who responded to the poll and said in an interview that Hogan’s criticisms are part of the reason he’ll vote for Cox. Rakow, 90, of Silver Spring, said he’s disappointed in “the ways Republicans drag their feet” on the economy and crime.
‘Hogan has no coattails.’
“Gov. Hogan has no coattails,” said Steve Raabe, president of OpinionWorks. “He’s fashioned his own brand … but he’s not moving votes for other candidates.”
Overall, Cox has less support from voters of his party than Moore has from his, the poll found.
About 86% of Democratic voters backed Moore, while 77% of Republicans supported Cox, whose party is already at a disadvantage by having more than 1.2 million fewer registered voters than Democrats statewide.
Cox has said he believes he can win over enough Democrats and unaffiliated voters to succeed, but the poll showed support from 6% of Democrats and 24% of unaffiliated voters. About 12% of Republicans and 36% of unaffiliated voters backed Moore, the poll found.
Hogan’s crossover appeal, Hartley said, included “a whole lot” of Republicans and independents and a “pretty sizable” margin of Democrats.
“What you’re seeing in this poll is that’s not happening for Dan Cox,” Hartley said.
‘What’s going on?’ with the GOP
Hartley said in the event of a Democratic sweep of the statewide races, Republicans in the state would face tough questions about what their voters want and how they will be able to rebound with a thin bench of future contenders.
“‘What’s going on?’ is what some people are going to ask after this election,” Hartley said.
Moore’s campaign got the support of his political rivals after the primary, developed an extensive ground game and has “tactically” used its money and message in an efficient way against Cox, Hartley said.
“Not only did they face a challenger that is far to the right of Maryland voters, but he had the money and the campaign to tell that story over and over again,” Hartley said.
Observers, and Moore himself, say his campaign takes nothing for granted. A last-minute burst of television ads feature the endorsement Tuesday of former President Barack Obama.
Donna Wyatt, 36, of Baltimore, said the ad with Obama was the first she’s seen of Moore other than on yard signs. An Obama and Biden supporter, she said she’ll vote for Moore. And though she’s heard people are concerned about Biden’s age of 79, she hopes he runs again in two years, too.
“The biggest thing that he did — I could’ve done some cartwheels down the street — was the student loans,” Wyatt said of her student debt being cleared because of Biden’s executive action.
Another respondent, unaffiliated voter Eric Atherton, said he was a “big Hogan fan” and might have supported the moderate governor’s preferred successor, Kelly Schulz. With her having lost the GOP primary, Atherton is instead is going for the Democrat.
Maryland Policy & Politics
“I’m an Army vet, and I know Wes Moore is a vet also, and I’ve heard some good things about him from police force friends of mine,” Atherton said, referring to Moore’s military service and law enforcement endorsements.
Atherton, 50, of Westminster, said he’s also serving as a judge of election this year for the first time because of what he views as mostly “conspiracy theories” in recent years over election integrity.
According to the Sun/UB poll, three-fourths of all likely voters believed the outcome of the election this year will reflect the will of the voters. But nearly three times as many Republicans ― about 29% of the party’s voters ― were not confident about it.
Cox, who helped spread Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, has repeatedly declined to say if he will accept the outcome of the results this year.
“I’m sure there’s been some limited issues with voting, but not to the degree that some people claim. So I want to put that to bed in my own mind,” Atherton said of his decision to volunteer at the polls.
Baltimore Sun reporter Hannah Gaskill contributed to this article.
About this poll
Results are based on a representative statewide survey of 559 Democratic, 254 Republican and 169 unaffiliated Maryland residents likely to vote in the Nov. 8 election. The poll was conducted Oct. 20-23 by OpinionWorks of Annapolis for Baltimore Sun Media and the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs and Schaefer Center for Public Policy. A cross section of voters were randomly selected and contacted by trained interviewers on cellphones and landline telephones, and additional voters were interviewed online through databases known as consumer panels. Statistical weights were applied to ensure the sample closely matched the expected makeup, based on past voting patterns, of the state’s electorate. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
This article has been corrected to say how many Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated likely voters went into the methodology for this poll. The Sun regrets the error.