Wednesday, September 26, 2012

POLL RESULTS: Independent Rob Sobhani Tied With GOP Nominee Dan Bongino in Race for Sen. Ben Cardin's Seat

UPDATE: Rob Sobhani is now using these tied poll results to argue that he should be included in debates between Sen. Ben Cardin and Dan Bongino. It sounds like Bongino doesn't want him to attend, though. The Associated Press reported on the news (via The Washington Post - excerpt below):
ASSOCIATED PRESS: An independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland is renewing his call to be included in debates between Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin and Republican challenger Dan Bongino. In asking to join the two major-party candidates in their debates, independent Rob Sobhani is citing recent poll results that show he is as competitive as Bongino....


BACKGROUND: Independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani appears to have doomed Republican Dan Bongino's already struggling campaign for Democrat Ben Cardin's seat. Moreover, the GOP brand in Maryland appears to be extremely weak.

Maryland Reporter today highlighted a new poll from Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies surveying voter opinion on several contested races in the Free State. We'll soon discuss some of the latest numbers on the heated ballot questions, but for now Maryland Juice finds the poll results on Maryland's U.S. Senate race the most interesting. Incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin's biggest re-election competition comes from GOP nominee Dan Bongino and wealthy independent candidate Rob Sobhani (a former Republican candidate). We previously reported that Sobhani was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television advertising throughout Maryland. Gonzales' poll today is the first measure of the impact of that spending, and the results show how weak the Republican brand is in Maryland.

BEN CARDIN WAY AHEAD IN SENATE RACE // TIE FOR 2ND PLACE - First, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see that Sen. Ben Cardin is way ahead of his competition in the U.S. Senate race. Gonzales reported the following results today (excerpt below via Maryland Reporter):
GONZALES RESEARCH: To paraphrase entertainer and civil rights leader Paul Robeson, “If a politician can inspire himself to spend a million dollars on television ads, name recognition will follow.”  Democratic Senator Ben Cardin is in a comfortable position leading into his re-election bid, but second place appears up for grabs.

In the race for United States Senate, 50% say they’ll vote Cardin, 22% say they will vote for Republican Dan Bongino, and 21% say they will for Rob Sobhani, who is running as an independent and who has invested a sizeable amount of money on TV advertisements over the past month. To put Sobhani’s showing into perspective, when Cardin first ran for Senate in 2006, the third party candidate received one percent of the vote.

GOP NOMINEE DAN BONGINO'S CAMPAIGN IS DOOMED: Indeed, in just a few short weeks, Rob Sobhani is now tied with GOP nominee Dan Bongino. If these trends hold, Ben Cardin will cruise to re-election and Bongino's campaign looks rather hopeless at the moment. Moreover, the poll results should worry Republican officials throughout Maryland. While it is easy for some to believe that Sobhani's surge in the polls is simply a result of his massive television spending, the results also show weakness for the GOP brand in Maryland. Here's why:

#1 - DEMOGRAPHICS DRIVE DEMOCRATIC DOMINATION IN MARYLAND: First, it should simply be stated that Senator Cardin is dominating broadly among all surveyed categories of voters:

Among white voters, Cardin is nearly twenty points ahead of his competition, and among black voters he has a super-majority of support from 71% of African Americans. Compare that to the paltry 8% African American support for Republican Dan Bongino, and you can see that with Maryland's large black voting population, the GOP cannot compete unless they start reaching out beyond the Tea Party base. The numbers are equally lopsided among women, where Cardin has a 43 point (!!!) lead over his Republican challenger. Cardin is even leading among men by 12 points.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Rob Sobhani (who is of Iranian descent), has nearly tied Dan Bongino among white voters and men, but has twice as much support among African-American voters as the Republican. Sobhani also has a slight lead over Bongino among women.

#2 - MARYLAND GOP LACKS APPEAL AMONG INDEPENDENT VOTERS: If Maryland conservatives think their Tea Party pandering is appealing to independent voters, these poll results suggest otherwise. If you look at how voters of different political persuasions view the U.S. Senate race, you can see that Sobhani's entry has likely harmed Dan Bongino's chances among independent voters:

The first thing to note about the poll is that Cardin's huge 74% share of the Democratic vote will make it impossible for anyone to defeat him in hugely blue Maryland. But even still, Sobhani is now taking 22% of the Republican vote from Bongino, but only 16% of the Democratic vote from Cardin. That is a potential 6 point net-loss for Bongino among Dem and GOP voters due to Rob Sobhani's candidacy.

Even more devastating to Bongino is the fact that among Maryland's large pool of independent voters, Cardin is taking 39% of the vote and Sobhani is polling at a near tie with 38% of these voters. Republican nominee Dan Bongino, meanwhile has a mere 10% of the independent vote.

CONCLUSION: MARYLAND GOP DESTINED TO BE A REGIONAL PARTY - These numbers present a long-term challenge for the Maryland GOP. To me they are just another sign that Free State Republicans have not yet figured out they live in a vastly liberal state, and that their fixation on a hate-mongering, race-baiting, anti-civil rights agenda does not appeal to today's Maryland voters. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the Maryland Republican Party now appears to be a regional party that is unable to compete in statewide races.

But there is also a message for Democrats in these poll results. This time last year, Free State Democrats were lamely spending months and months of time on ridiculous debates over civil rights issues like same-sex marriage -- as if we lived in Kansas. Meanwhile, Senator Ben Cardin supports both the Dream Act and marriage equality and will cruise to re-election. This leads me to reiterate that Maryland Democrats who think they need to pander to the non-existent pool of centrist voters are behaving foolishly. There is no statewide future for candidates (of any party) who do not stand up for progressive values. I'd be happy to go through the numbers with any candidates who are unable to grasp this obvious fact. And if I'm right -- it means that when Democrats sell out on the issues, they are doing it voluntarily and not out of any electoral necessity. Not in Maryland, at least.

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