Senator Paul Sarbanes will have held this seat for three decades and there is no reason to believe that anyone can take it from him. In 2000, he routed Paul Rappaport, taking 63% of the vote. Even so, at the age of 71 and with no reason to think that Democrats have a prayer (even if they did, they probably wouldn’t say it) of taking back the Senate, he may decided that it’s time to call it a career. If so, this could turn into another nightmare for the Democrats.
Maryland isn’t a likely place for Republicans to pick up a Senate seat. President Bush had his hat handed to him this year, and Senator Mikulski routed E. J. Pipkin this year. Even so, Democrats seem to be interested in nominating Kweisi Mfume, who just resigned his post as President and CEO of the NAACP. Mfume has managed during his long political career to establish ties to racketeers, called one of the Senate’s most respected members a racist, and entangle the Congressional Black Caucus with known racist Louis Farrakhan.
Even with the racist Mfume in the race, Maryland is so blue that only Lt. Gov. Michael Steele presents a real opportunity for Republicans. Steele, who is black, may be the right combination of an electable candidate and a real conservative. Republicans have fared terribly in Baltimore City, but Steele’s work on issues of concern to blacks may give him a rare opportunity to make inroads in the city. He has focused on improving the Minority Business Enterprise program and improving public education. Of particular interest to President Bush is the fact that he has been working to coordinate state activities with faith-based groups, showing that he is more concerned with helping communities improve themselves than political correctness.
Republicans cannot seriously challenge Sarbanes, but early money, a good campaign, and a bright spotlight to shine on Mfume’s extremism could be the perfect storm Republicans need to steal the seat. If there’s no retirement, this race is not “Safe Democrat”, but falls into the “Dead Girl or Live Boy” category. If Sarbanes decides to call it quits, rank this as “Likely Democrat” with the possibility of becoming “Leans Democrat” if all the right pieces fall into place.