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Maryland's GOP governor has big lead in polls for a year, so the pollsters have questions

Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE -- For more than year -- no matter who was doing the public polling -- the results have come back the same: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan up by double digits in the Democratic bastion of Maryland.

Teachers have blasted his funding of the state's schools and endorsed his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous, in the general election. It hasn't mattered.

Opinion writers have criticized his decision to kill Baltimore's planned Red Line light rail. No effect.

A pro-Jealous political action committee has taken to the TV airwaves to run attack ads. No change.

In poll after poll, Hogan has led by an average of 18 percentage points over Jealous -- in a state where Hillary Clinton easily defeated Donald Trump by nearly 30 points and Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. Even before the June primary that nominated Jealous, pollsters asked potential voters about a Hogan-Jealous match.

The polls indicate voters' continued support of Hogan is because of their satisfaction with the direction of the state. But even the pollsters, themselves, say they are surprised with Hogan's continued strength in blue Maryland, where Democrats traditionally mop the floor with the GOP.

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Pollster Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy has surveyed the race three times in the past year and found Hogan leading by 16 points in September 2017, 17 points in February and 15 points last month.

Coker says he can't believe Hogan will finish on Election Day with as big a lead as the polls show.

"I still see the undecided vote going more for Jealous than Hogan," Coker said. "In the end, it may be 55-45 statewide. If it's 20 points on Election Day, it means Larry Hogan is either the greatest governor in Maryland history or Ben Jealous is the worst candidate in Maryland history."

Several pollsters also predicted the race will narrow in the state's deep blue jurisdictions when new voters opt for Jealous and undecided Democrats who are currently skeptical of him return home to the party when they vote.

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