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The Tentacle


November 1, 2006

Michael Steele Endorsement

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Monday brought more good news for the Michael Steele campaign for Maryland US Senator.

Former Democrat Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry and, five Democratic Prince George's County Council members and several other Democratic community and business leaders endorsed the Maryland lieutenant governor to become Maryland's next U.S. Senator in next Tuesday's election.

Of the list endorsing Michael Steele, the name that really impresses me is former Maryland Municipal League president David Harrington, who is currently the PG County District 5 councilman.

Councilman Harrington is very thoughtful and well-measured in his deliberations about leadership, politics and government. He is a rising star and for him to cross party lines to participate in the endorsement of Michael Steele is a big deal.

I served on the Maryland Municipal League Board of Directors with Mr. Harrington for a number of years and grew to appreciate his judgment. He is nobody's tool and does not suffer fools easily. Look for him to move up to Prince George's County executive in the coming years.

For two decades, no Republican since liberal Republican Charles 'Mac' Mathias has served in the U.S. Senate from Maryland. Born in Frederick and a product of Frederick County Public Schools, Senator Mathias served in Washington from 1969 to 1987.

It has been an uphill slough with Maryland's two-to-one Democrat majority for Lieutenant Governor Steele from the beginning, but voters are trending in Mr. Steele's direction and momentum is on his side.

At first, the lieutenant governor's charisma and personality was what was turning heads in his direction, but increasingly, with a week remaining until the election, folks are responding positively to his message of a new fresh face and approach to Washington politics.

Ever since Baltimore-centric Ben Cardin was chosen by the Democrat power brokers over former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume to replace the retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Representative Cardin needed to convince Maryland's African-American voters - essentially one-quarter of the vote in Maryland - that he also represents them.

And that does not appear to be happening. Which is understandable since the Maryland Democratic Party has taken the African-American constituency for granted for decades.

Real Clear Politics wrote on October 26 that the powerful African-American vote in Maryland "can run as high as 30% depending on turnout - and because of the way Mfume was passed over - and the fact that Steele is the first African-American elected state wide in Maryland's history, Steele is poised to maybe capture as much as a 1/3rd of the African-American vote. Cardin simply can not win if Steele gets 33% of the black vote in Maryland."

Exacerbating the beleaguered congressman's problems is the fact that he has run an uninspiring "vanilla campaign," which has lacked vision, originality and worst of all, it has lacked excitement.

It appears that Lieutenant Governor Steele has the momentum and will defy the pundits, polls and yesterday's tired analysis of Maryland's politics and pull off what many will view is an unexpected victory.

For some odd reason, so many political wonks have "overlooked" the fact that Mr. Steele is a Prince George's County native son; the county which holds the cards on much of the African-American vote in Maryland. It has been an ignored elephant-in-the-room for decades and whispers are that the Prince George's County electorate is tired of being treated like a mushroom by Maryland Democrats.

In contrast to Congressman Cardin's robo-National Democratic Party formulaic approach to running for office in a cobalt-blue state, the lieutenant governor is proving to be an energetic campaigner who is used to difficult campaigns and actually appears to want our vote.

In 40 years, this is the first statewide contest for Congressman Cardin and indeed, the first difficult contest he has ever had. This has served to rattle him a bit at times and it has not inspired confidence for many Maryland voters.

A comparison of the television ads reveals a sharp contrast in the two candidates. The lieutenant governor's ads are edgy and hip in stark contrast to the congressman's, which only reinforces a stereotype and generalize him as liberal national Democratic Party policy wonk. Marylanders want a senator who will represent Maryland, not National Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean.

Democrats who clamor to nationalize the Maryland Senate contest want it both ways. On the one hand they want to identify the lieutenant governor with President Bush.

On the other hand, Democrats who want a change in Congress are offering-up a candidate that has spent 40 years as an elected legislator - 20 of those years in the very Congress - whose approval rating is at 24 percent - voters want changed. Even the president's approval rating is higher than that - at 40 percent.)

And at some point, someone needs to remind Congressman Cardin that he is running against a charismatic, thoughtful, savvy and very independent Michael Steele and not the president of the United States.

As much as I admire both the president and the lieutenant governor, I have never confused the two.

Michael Steele can work both sides of the aisle. To work with him in person is a delight. He is friendly, personable, very accessible and certainly polite, even when you disagree with him.

Congressman Cardin says that he can do the same, yet he seems only to parrot the talking points of the National Democratic Party.

Never-the-less, many have given Congressman Cardin a great deal of consideration. He has served our great state well for a quite a number of years. We all should thank him for his service and wish him well in his retirement as he gets to spend more time with his grandchildren and devote his time to other public service.

But it is time for a change and Michael Steele represents just the kind of change for which voters are clamoring.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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