WASHINGTON – With more than a year until the election for U.S. Senate, a new poll shows Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski holds a sizeable lead over her likely Republican challenger, state Sen. Edward J. Pipkin.
The independent poll, released Wednesday, gave Mikulski a 57-26 percent margin over Pipkin if the election were held today, with 17 percent undecided.
Nearly all of the 831 Maryland voters surveyed in the poll said they recognized Mikulski, and more than half said they had a favorable opinion of the Baltimore Democrat.
Thirty-six percent of those polled recognized Pipkin’s name and 13 percent had a favorable opinion of the Queen Anne’s County Republican.
That level of name recognition for Pipkin a year before the election “is not a bad position from which to begin his charge,” said the poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies of Annapolis. But it said that in order for Pipkin to win, he must convince voters it is time for a change.
“Senator Pipkin is going to have a tough time” winning the race, pollster Patrick Gonzales said. He added, however, that a year in politics is a long time and circumstances can change.
Neither of the candidates’ staffs returned calls seeking comment on the poll. The telephone poll, which was conducted between Oct. 20 and Oct. 26, has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
Pipkin, a former Wall Street financier, spent about $600,000 of his own money in his first bid for elected office last year to unseat state Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil. He announced his candidacy for Mikulski’s seat on Oct. 13, less than a year after winning his first term in the State House.
Even the freshman senator’s campaign manager Steve Crim acknowledged last week that Pipkin faces an uphill battle, against Mikulski, a member of Congress for 27 years who won her first of three Senate terms in 1986.
Frank A. DeFilippo, a political analyst for WBAL radio, said the new poll shows that Mikulski is in a strong position.
“Barbara Mikulski has evolved into the most popular politician in the state,” DeFilippo said. “I don’t think she’s vulnerable.”
A Gonzales poll in August gave Mikulski a 64 percent approval rating.
Before the latest poll was released, Crim said that Pipkin will campaign against Mikulski’s record on the environment, education and the economy.
But DeFilippo said he does not think Pipkin has found a way to effectively challenge Mikulski on the issues.
“She’s in permanent campaign mode,” DeFilippo said. “She shops in a different supermarket around Baltimore every Sunday” to meet citizens.