Day By Day

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Maryland Politics -- Steele Ascending

The WaPo wonders if Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele can break the Democrats' hold on Black voters.

If Steele launches a widely anticipated bid for U.S. Senate in coming weeks, his candidacy will test one of the most deeply rooted certainties in Maryland politics: that no matter the contest, the vast majority of African American voters will cast their ballots for the Democrat.

Steele, 44, a Prince George's County lawyer who became the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, said in an interview that he intends to court the black vote aggressively, part of a concerted push by the GOP nationally to bridge a chasm that opened 50 years ago during the modern civil rights era. Already, the Republican National Committee has pledged significant campaign support and money to a Steele campaign.

Republicans say his historic status and his use of state office to open a dialogue with minority business executives and church leaders could help draw votes from what is arguably the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency. Another factor is the bitterness that many black leaders have felt since 2002, when Democrats passed up a chance to put a black candidate on the statewide ticket and left it to Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to end the tradition of all-white slates.

"I think they still feel that . . . most of us have no place to go," said Del. Obie Patterson (Prince George's) of his fellow Democrats. "But I would caution them. If Democrats don't take significant steps to combat those perceptions, many African American voters may stay home, and a significant number may vote for the other side."

Read it here.

I have talked with some prominent Maryland Democrats recently, and Steele scares them. They sense something here, and it's not good for their side.

Steele's impressive. I just wish he had more experience. With more national exposure, he could be the Republican Barak Obama.

Things are getting interesting here.

Stay tuned.

WaPo photo.

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