In year when the Dims are supposed to take back the House and Senate, there are indications that the party's stranglehold on black voters ending. A new study from a Democratic strategist finds that as many as 44% of African-American voters in Maryland are willing to abandon the party, and support Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, the black Republican who is seeking an open Senate seat. The strategist who prepared the report, Cornell Belcher, warns Democrats "not to wait to knock Steele down."
Put another way, the Senate race is going to get even nastier. Steele has already the victim of an illegal Democratic operation that Michelle Malkin dubbed "Chuckaquiddick," after New York Senator Charles Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Committee. Aides from Schumer's committee illegally obtained Steele's personal credit report, obviously looking for potential dirt. Unfortunately, the Bush Justice Department largely dismissed the episode; only one Schumer staffer faces legal action, and there was no real effort to plumb the depths of the illegal operation, and determine if Schumer was directly involved.
Over in Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (Howard Dean's other Republican nightmare) still faces a primary fight to win the GOP nomination for governor. Blackwell is an equally formidable candidate, and more than capable of defeating Congressman Ted Strickland, the presumptive Democratic nominee. But state Attorney General Jim Petro has refused to drop out of the Republican primary, and he now claims front-runner status, after the recent withdrawal of another GOP challenger, state auditor Betty Montgomery.
As a former Ohioan, I still believe that Blackwell remains the favorite for the Republican nomination, and I'll predict that he'll be elected the state's first African-American governor in November, attracting significant numbers of "cross-over" black voters. In Maryland, I think Michael Steele faces a tougher fight; he's clearly a top target for the Democrats, and they'll spare no effort to "knock him down." But those tactics could also backfire; black constituencies willing to listen to Steele might be put off by efforts to smear him. Who knows? Howard Dean might wake up in November and find his worst nightmare coming true: a black Republican Senator in Maryland, a black Republican governor in Ohio, and new problems in maintaining the Democratic Party's African-American "base."