COLLEGE PARK – Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski had raised $5.6 million for her campaign, almost eight times as much as her Republican challenger, according to the latest reports with the Federal Election Commission.
That is a closer margin than earlier reports, when state Sen. E.J. Pipkin was trailing Mikulski by as much as a 10-1 margin. But even Pipkin’s campaign manager, Dave Brockhorst, said the campaign still has “a long way to go.”
Pipkin has the advantage of deep pockets: More than half of his $701,912 in campaign receipts are loans from the candidate himself, according to the FEC.
But pollster Patrick Gonzales said that while money is important, Pipkin’s money may do little more than let him lose to Mikulski by a narrower margin than her previous challengers. Mikulski has netted more than 70 percent of the vote in her last two campaigns.
“She’s going to be tough to beat,” said Gonzales, the president of Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies. He said she is a popular incumbent, which puts any challenger at a strong disadvantage unless that incumbent stumbles.
“I haven’t seen an indication that Mikulski is vulnerable,” he said. “Things could change, but it’s not likely.”
The latest poll on the race by Gonzales showed Mikulski leading Pipkin among likely voters by more than 30 percentage points. She also enjoyed a job approval rating of 65 percent in the telephone poll of 386 Maryland regular voters that was taken between June 4 and June 9. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
But Mikulski “takes every race seriously” and “never takes anything for granted,” said her campaign manager, Mike Morrill.
According to the latest filings with the FEC, Mikulski had spent $2.7 million as of July and still had $2.9 million on hand. Pipkin reported spending $618,560 in the same period and having $83,351 in the bank.
But Brockhorst downplayed the campaign’s comparatively meager bank account, saying that Pipkin will likely be putting more of his own money into the campaign.
Pipkin, who earned his considerable personal wealth in bond trading, also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in his 2002 campaign for Maryland State Senate, his only other bid for elected office so far.
The Mikulski campaign has also pointed out the sources of Pipkin’s funds, saying that the Republican Party had sought a candidate who would spend large amounts of his own money on the race. Mikulski has not yet contributed to her own campaign.
But Brockhorst said Pipkin also hopes to benefit from the recent success the GOP has enjoyed in Maryland with the election of Gov. Robert Ehrlich. He said the campaign is not counting on a boost from the presidential election in Maryland, which President Bush is expected to lose again as he did in 2000.
In the Gonzales poll, Ehrlich received a 52 percent job approval rating, but Bush received his lowest job-approval ratings of his tenure with a 39 percent rating. Only 38 percent of those polled said they would vote for him if the election on the day the poll was taken.
-30- CNS 08-20-04