Crossing the Line
There is true disappointment in the loss of this election within the rank-in-file of the Republican Party. Many insiders are either looking for an answer as to why, or pointing their fingers at what they believe to be a possible suspect. The simple answer is look at the numbers now that the votes are counted.
You have to look back in order to plan ahead. What were the patterns from the past and what does that mean for the future? Did conservative voters stay home? Did Democrats really have a get-out-the-vote plan or was it just part of a nationwide George W. Bush backlash?
First the pattern: In 1994 Maryland Republicans nearly won the governorship with Ellen Sauerbrey (she missed by 5993 questionable votes) and picked-up a substantial amount of legislative seats, both House and Senate. In 1998's Round Two, Mrs. Sauerbrey loses by 10 percent to the incumbent Democrat and Republicans loose both House and Senate seats.
Republicans overcame the Democrats in 2002, took the governorship by a mere 3.87% and gained both House and Senate seats.
That brings us to the present. Robert L. Ehrlich was taken out by 6.5%. The Republicans broke-even in the Senate and lost five seats in the House. Looks like a pattern to me!
A rumor the press would like to believe is that conservative voters stayed home. Perhaps a few disgruntled souls on the Eastern Shore or in parts of Western Maryland, however, the graph pattern indicates that almost every county stayed parallel to its 1998 voting pattern.
The exception was that in each county vote totals were between four to 10 points lower on the graph, thus generating an Ehrlich loss.
This tells me that those "1998 Sauerbrey conservative" voters in general stayed true to the cause in 2006. Remember the 1994 election results were close because swing voters were buying into the idea of "voting themselves a 24% tax-cut."
By 1998 the vast majority of Sauerbrey voters were only true Republican believers. What was lost in those percentages was the swing Democrat voters. These bi-party voters were returning to their roots to vote Democrat and Democrat only in 1998 and they did it again in 2006.
Perhaps this was a message to George W. Bush. Perhaps this was part of their pattern. Certainly it was the basic cause for an Ehrlich loss. The difference between 1998 and 2006 is Republicans did not take as big a loss on the legislative side.
The reason is that only a few counties had percentages lower than the 1998 election. Most percentages were higher levels than in 1998. Add that to the fact that the majority of House seats lost were by delegates appointed to fill missing seats of Ehrlich's appointees to his administration. No argument can be made to their quality or abilities. The argument can be made that they didn't have the advantage of a prior campaign as did those elected by the public in 2002.
Republicans broke even in the Senate. That was an improvement over 1998; again, due to the fact that the "Ehrlich percentages" were a little higher than the "1998 Sauerbrey percentages." Senate seats are a little harder and more complex to win the more even the playing field.
The conclusion is that Maryland is the bluest of blue states with the registration disparity Democrats have over Republicans. They should win almost everything all the time practically everywhere; but they don't, because there are about seven percent discerning registered Democrats who will cross the line and vote "red."
Perhaps in another four years this 6.5% of Maryland voters will be tired of the new taxes taken from their incomes. Perhaps they will realize then what Senate President Mike Miller knows now, that an O'Malley Administration will tax and spend a road too rough for his future re-election. Then Democrat Party once again will be vulnerable to the voting pattern these bi-polar swing voters have charted since 1994.