Just six months ago, Maryland Democrats appeared poised to back former vice president Joe Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the state’s April 28 presidential primary.
But now, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the winner of the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucuses and the consensus frontrunner in the nomination chase, has catapulted into the lead here, according to a just-released survey.
Sanders is the choice of 24% of likely Democratic voters surveyed by Goucher College, with Biden coming in second at 18%, and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg at 16%, climbing to third.
Maryland holds its presidential primary on April 28.
Biden and Warren, the top choices when Goucher conducted its September 2019 survey, have hemorrhaged support among Maryland Democrats. He was at 33% last autumn; she has fallen from 21% support to 6%.
Sanders, who was the choice of just 10% of Maryland Democrats last fall, has risen as the previous frontrunners have tumbled.
Bloomberg entered the contest in November and was therefore not included in Goucher’s September polling.
The Goucher survey offered no insight into Sanders’ surge in Maryland, but political science professor Mileah K. Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, noted that Democrats here are eager for a candidate who can defeat President Trump in November.
“Forty-seven percent people say they want to find a candidate who can most likely beat Donald Trump, and 39% of people are saying they want a person whose issues are close to them,” Kromer said. “So electability is still the number one issue for Maryland Democrats.”
Twelve percent of Democrats surveyed volunteered “both” when asked to choose between issues-alignment and electability.
With the exception of Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (22-48) and California businessman Tom Steyer (31-36), all of the Democrats running for president are viewed favorably by Maryland Democrats.
In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton took 63% of the vote to Sanders’ 34%, reflecting Maryland Democrats’ historical penchant for supporting “establishment” candidates. But that script was flipped somewhat in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor, when former NAACP president Benjamin T. Jealous defeated more established Maryland politicians.
Trump remains deeply unpopular
Trump is so unpopular in Maryland, he would lose the state in November even if Gabbard — the choice of less than 1% of likely Democratic primary voters — was the party’s nominee.
In every head-to-head match-up that Goucher tested, the 45th president loses the state.
Sanders would defeat Trump 61-34, Goucher found. Biden would beat him 60-35, Bloomberg 59-32, Warren 59-35.
In 2016, Clinton defeated Trump 60% to 34%.
Thirty-one percent of Maryland residents approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 64% disapproved. His support comes almost exclusively from Republicans (76-19). He is under-water with unaffiliated voters (30-59) and Democrats (8-88).
(George H.W. Bush was the last Republican presidential nominee to win Maryland. The then-vice president took 51% of the vote in 1988 against Democrat Michael Dukakis, who won 48% of ballots cast.)
Perhaps paradoxically, Maryland Republicans remain loyal to both Trump and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., one of the president’s most prominent GOP critics.
“Hogan does present a really interesting case when you think about this nationally,” said Kromer. “He’s one of the very few Republicans who has been able to push back against the president and still maintain the support of his base.”
Trump is massively unpopular in the Washington, D.C., suburbs (17-73) and in the Baltimore region (32-62). What support he has is on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland, where 52% percent of voters approve of his conduct in office, against 44% who disapprove.
Maryland voters strongly disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Just 11% approve of how federal lawmakers handle their work, with 82% voicing disapproval. Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters are united in their unhappiness with Congress.
Goucher’s presidential candidate survey contacted 929 adults, a group that included 823 registered voters, 718 likely voters and 371 likely Democratic voters. The margin of error in the Democratic primary tally was 5.1 points, putting Biden and Bloomberg within reach of Sanders. The margin of error for other questions was in the 3-point range.
More than half of Maryland residents expressed fear of the Coronavirus.
The survey, taken before the recent spread of the disease beyond Asia, found that 56% of state residents are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about an outbreak of a disease like the Coronavirus. Forty-three percent said they were “not at all” or “a little” concerned.
In a 2014 Goucher poll, 64% of Marylanders expressed concern about an outbreak of a disease like the Zika virus. In 2016, 66% said they were at least somewhat concerned about an outbreak of a disease like Ebola.