Mikulski: Big lead but no longer biggest favorite
It has been a standard line for years about Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski: She's "the most popular politician in Maryland."
Not any more, apparently.
Mikulski is still viewed favorably by Maryland voters. A total of 52 percent of registered voters in a newly released Washington Post poll gave her a favorable rating.
But that's down from 64 percent favorability in the same poll, in January, 2004, the last time she ran for re-election.
By comparison, the statewide poll, conducted Sept. 22-26, showed two other politicians whom Maryland voters view more favorably than Mikulski: Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, rated favorably by 64 percent, and Republican nominee Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., by 55 percent (that last number falls within the poll's margin of error with Mikulski's, but O'Malley's does not).
She may no longer be Maryland's favorite pol, but the 74-year-old senator appears to be cruising toward another six-year term in Washington.
The Baltimore native holds a lopsided two-to-one lead in the poll over Republican challenger Eric Wargotz, a Queen Anne's County commissioner.
The state's senior senator led by 59 percent to 24 percent among registered voters and by 61 percent to 29 percent among likely voters. The survey found Mikulski leading Wargotz in every part of the state and among nearly all demographic groups, the Post said.
Campaign analyst Stu Rothenberg attributed Mikulski's drop in popularity to anti-incumbent sentiment seen nationwide this year. But that speculation may not account for her slippage in favorability, since O'Malley, also an incumbent, drew a higher rating in the same survey.
Instead, the responses of younger voters help explain her fall from first place.
Among those in the 18 to 34 age group, Mikulski's favorable rating declined from 53 percent in 2004 to 32 percent. Her unfavorable rating rose by 9 percent and the percentage of those expressing no opinion increased by 12 points, to 48 percent.
Even younger voters who favored Mikulski were unfamiliar with her and her work, the poll found. As the Post noted, Mikulski is an influential senator, but she's not a party leader and doesn't chair a full committee. She also doesn't attract national attention to her campaigns because they're not competitive.
Her favorability also fell sharply among Republicans, independents and white voters (clearly there's overlap among those categories). For more details, click here.