Gonzales poll shows statistical tie in governor's race
* updated with campaign responses
A new Gonzales poll shows a dead heat between Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the fall governor's race.
O'Malley would capture 45 percent of the vote, and Ehrlich 42 percent, with a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error, the poll shows.
In a summer of robo-polls, the Annapolis-based Gonzales Marketing and Research Strategies conducted live telephone interviews from July 13-21 of 807 registered voters "who are likely to vote." It is the firm's second governor's race poll this year. One conducted in January showed O'Malley with a larger advantage in a then-theoretical matchup with Ehrlich -- 48 percent to 39 percent.
"The race for governor as of late July is really close," pollster Patrick Gonzales writes in a release about today's survey. "Incumbent Governor O'Malley has a slight lead in our poll, but it's clear that either candidate could win in November."
The Gonzales poll is the first interview survey to come out this summer. Both O'Malley and Ehrlich have acknowledged that the race is close.
"This poll confirms that Bob Ehrlich is stuck in the low-40s because people remember his record as the biggest spender in Maryland history and that Marylanders approve of the job Governor O’Malley is doing to move Maryland forward despite the national recession,” said O'Malley campaign spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.
"It also shows that Governor O’Malley’s negative campaigning has proven to be a major tactical mistake," he said. "We expect this race to remain very close. Bob Ehrlich will remain focused on reaching out to everyday Marylanders to discuss his plan to lead an economic resurgence in Maryland.”
Ehrlich's campaign was so pleased with the poll that it swiftly put out its results an e-mail to supporters, asking for donations.
Among Independents, the candidates are tied at 39 percent. Overall, 8 percent of those polled said they are undecided, down from 13 percent in January.
In addition to the horserace, the Gonzales poll probed voters' views about issues this fall -- no surprise, the economy tops that list -- and how they think O'Malley, President Barack Obama and Sen. Barbara Mikulski are doing in their jobs. O'Malley's job approval, at 48 percent, was about the same as it was in January.
Obama's approval rating among Marylanders has continued to fall, from about 80 percent when he took office in January 2009 to 51 percent this month. Mikulski's approval rating has fallen from 67 percent in September 2009 to 59 percent in July.
“Even the popular Mikulski is feeling the effects of the anti-incumbent mood of the electorate," Gonzales writes. Mikulski's approval rating this month matches her 59 percent rating in October 2004, a month before she won election to her current term.
Until now, the only interview poll we've seen recently was the The Washington Post's May survey. It showed O'Malley leading Ehrlich among registered voters but tied among those who say they are "certain" to vote this fall, a reflection of what political analysts have called a nationwide trend against incumbents.
Some political analysts say they prefer live-interview surveys to "robo-polls," where a respondent simply presses buttons to indicate answers. Some also question the authenticity of such automated polls, which are inexpensive and often conducted by firms with partisan roots.
There have been at least four automated polls this summer, with most showing just what the Gonzales poll shows: a virtual tie.