Holding Out For A Hero

Roll Call has an article today noting that while the only two candidates in the Senate race as yet are from the D.C. suburbs, two different Baltimore candidates continue to either express interest or draw intense speculation in a potential run.

First, Elijah Cummings. Roll Call doesn’t hold out much hope here.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings would change the game if he got into the race. The longtime Baltimore politician has a base of support there and statewide name recognition that would make him a contender.

Cummings, speaking briefly Tuesday on Capitol Hill, said he would not answer questions about a possible Senate bid and declined to disclose any timetable on a decision.
“Congressman Cummings is still considering how he can best serve,” Mike Christianson, a Cummings spokesman, told CQ Roll Call in an email.
But one source close to Cummings said Monday it did not appear to him that Cummings was building the campaign apparatus one might need if planning a Senate run, including efforts to strengthen his fundraising and hire key staff members.
“He doesn’t seem to be taking the steps that one would be taking if one were to run,” the Democratic operative said.

I think this analysis is right on. I think there was a time when Cummings was on the verge of getting in - but that was April, and the unrest in Baltimore made him change his mind. I’ve heard nothing recently that would make me think Roll Call is off in its assessment.

Expressing some recent interest in the race has been Dutch Ruppersberger.

Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Cummings’ fellow Baltimorean, is considering a run, but he told CQ Roll Call Tuesday he would wait until September to make his decision.

“I like what I’m doing now, that’s why I didn’t want to run for governor in 2014,” he said.
Ruppersberger said he has encouraged Cummings to get in the race. Ruppersberger pointed to Cummings’ personal activism earlier this year on the streets of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died from injuries while in police custody.
“Especially after the riots, he was out there and did a good job,” Ruppersberger said. “I think Elijah has the problem I have: We really like what we’re doing here.”

The key point, expressed previously by Ruppersberger, is the “waiting until September” part. I have heard more than once that Ruppersberger has agreed to defer to Cummings until then, but not longer. Assuming Cummings stays out, and further assuming that Dutch sees a path to victory, I think there’s a better than even money chance he gets in.

The question is whether there’s a path to victory. Roll Call notes the problem for a Baltimore candidate.

Part of the problem for potential Baltimore candidates such as Ruppersberger or Cummings is demographics. In the past decade, the population in the District’s suburbs has grown, while Baltimore’s has declined. According to Census Bureau estimates, Baltimore’s population is about 623,000, while the number in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, wrapped north and east around D.C., has grown to more than 2 million.

“Half the state is the Washington suburbs, and that media market doesn’t know us as well, just as they don’t know Chris and Donna in Baltimore,” Ruppersberger said.
Ruppersberger has more than $1.1 million in the bank, but said he recognized Van Hollen’s fundraising strength and the fact that the other two candidates are already well known in the state’s — and one of the country’s — most expensive media market.

Today’s news that Maggie McIntosh - former campaign manager and state director for Barbara Mikulski, and a powerful Baltimore delegate for over two decades now - will be endorsing Chris Van Hollen may well be a sign that Baltimore leaders are ready to recognize that this isn’t their year. Let’s wait and see who makes a move in the coming weeks and months.