WASHINGTON – Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards will rally party volunteers at Anne Arundel Community College Friday afternoon, in the first campaign visit to the state by a major-party nominee.
Most political experts expect Edwards and running mate John Kerry to win Maryland and Democratic officials said Edwards’ visit is not so much to bolster the ticket’s chances as to boost morale among Maryland volunteers, who have been actively campaigning in neighboring states that are more competitive.
“We are confident of our success in Maryland . . . and we take seriously our role as a (volunteer) exporter state,” said Heather Mizeur, the state director for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.
Mizeur said that in recent weeks, hundreds of Maryland Democrats have gone west, to canvass neighborhoods in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, a state that President Bush narrowly won in 2000.
Edwards was already scheduled to attend a private fund-raiser in Annapolis on Friday evening, Mizeur said, and the afternoon rally was added to show appreciation for the 20,000 volunteers in the state.
But some Republicans suggested that the visit by the North Carolina senator points to the Democrats’ realization that Maryland is not as safe for Democrats as it has been in past elections.
“John Edwards coming to Maryland in the waning days of this campaign is not a good sign,” said Deborah Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party.
“The polls show that not many people are energized by Kerry and maybe they need to bring in Edwards because the blue vote is turning purple,” she said.
But Keith Haller, president of Maryland-based polling firm Potomac Inc., thinks that Republican hopes may be misplaced.
“Kerry over Bush seems a safe bet, barring unforeseen events and circumstances,” Haller said.
A statewide poll released last week by Gonzales Research and Marketing shows Kerry leading Bush by 10 percentage points. The poll also showed that Kerry enjoys significant leads in Baltimore City and the Washington, D.C., suburbs while Bush is ahead in the rest of the state.
Haller said that a Kerry victory was likely because “you are seeing extraordinary grass-roots activity and increased registration by Democrats in their core breadbasket — Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore City.”
This is not Edwards’ first visit to Maryland in this campaign. He came to Prince George’s Community College in February when he was still running for president.
The GOP ticket has no immediate plans to bring Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney to Maryland to campaign, and some state Republicans consider that a prudent move.
“This is an election about battleground states and the president is wisely spending his time in battleground states,” said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.
-30- CNS 10-14-04