Black Democrats Back Steele For U.S. Senate
WaPo’s Metro section leads today with a story that key black Democrats in Maryland’s DC suburbs are endorsing Republican Michael Steele for the Senate.
A coalition of black Democratic political leaders from Prince George’s County led by former county executive Wayne K. Curry endorsed Republican Michael S. Steele’s bid for the U.S. Senate yesterday. The support from Curry, five County Council members and others barely a week before Election Day reflects their continued disappointment that the Democratic Party has no African American candidates at the top of the ticket and a sense that the county is being ignored, officials said. “They show us a pie, but we never get a slice,” said Major F. Riddick Jr., a former aide to then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening and a former county executive candidate. “We are here today to say we’ve waited and we’ve waited and we’re waiting no longer.”
Steele, who as lieutenant governor is the first African American elected statewide in Maryland, said he was humbled by the support. “I said I did not want this [campaign] to be so much about party but about the people,” he said. “And these people understand that.”
Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, said the endorsements could be significant. “This is going to go through the black community like a rocket,” he said. “It’s going to be the talk of the county, the state, maybe even the nation.”
Oren Shur, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, was more skeptical. “The endorsements will not make Prince George’s County residents forget that Michael Steele is George W. Bush’s handpicked candidate,” he said.
Walters and Shur are likely both right. This will indeed help black voters who are already considering a vote for Steele make that leap of faith. At the same time, the black vote will still go overwhelmingly to the Democrat.
Ed Morrissey notes another factor in this equation:
While Benjamin Cardin’s campaign continued to mumble about George Bush hand-picking Steele, these black politicians understand more that Cardin was hand-picked by the party establishment over the more well-known and potentially stronger Kweisi Mfume, the former NAACP leader and Congressman. His marginalization in the primary has come at a cost, and it’s starting to become significant.
Again, I don’t expect more than a third of Maryland’s black vote to go to Steele; indeed, a quarter would be optimistic. But that margin could well be the difference maker in a relatively tight race.
Still, Cardin has led the contest from the outset:
A 5.3% gap a week from the election is going to be hard to close.