Josh Kurtz: Cummings’ Poll Shows Him Topping Edwards, Van Hollen

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By Josh Kurtz

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D) leads a hypothetical three-way Democratic Senate primary over fellow Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Donna Edwards (D), according to a survey conducted last month by Cummings’ pollster.

The poll of 700 likely Democratic primary voters, taken March 19-22 by the Mellman Group, Inc., showed Cummings with 29 percent in the initial matchup, Edwards with 23 percent, and Van Hollen with 22 percent. The poll had a 3.7-point margin of error.

The poll is quietly being circulated this week by Cummings’ allies while the congressman continues to ponder whether to enter the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). Cummings has publicly touted the poll results in recent days without mentioning the particulars.

Both Edwards and Van Hollen are running aggressively; Edwards yesterday rolled out endorsements from seven of the nine members of the Prince George’s County Council, while Van Hollen’s camp boasted that he had more than $2.7 million in his campaign coffers as of March 31.

Cummings has not had a competitive House race since he was first elected in a 1996 special election and has not used many national consultants through the years. The Mellman Group, Inc. is part of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s stable of consultants, suggesting that Hoyer may prefer to see Cummings in the Senate rather than Edwards or Van Hollen.

The Mellman poll showed Cummings doing even better against Edwards and Van Hollen after survey respondents were given brief, factual biographical information about the three lawmakers. After being told about the House members, voters gave Cummings 33 percent of the vote, while Edwards and Van Hollen each came in at 24 percent.

Cummings’ favorability rating was enviable: 63 percent of the poll respondents said they had a favorable view of the congressman, while just 11 percent said they did not. Van Hollen’s favorable-unfavorable rating in the poll was 48 percent and 8 percent, while Edwards’ was 45 percent and 7 percent.

“Importantly, Cummings’ positive profile is not constrained by a geographic base,” pollster Mark Mellman wrote in a memo accompanying the poll. “In the Baltimore media market, his reputation is sterling, with nearly three-quarters (74%) holding favorable views of Cummings. But even in the Washington, DC media market, where he has never run an ad or ran a race, 52% feel favorably towards the Congressman.”

While the poll was conducted in late March, its cost was not reflected in Cummings’ latest campaign finance disclosure, which covers the period Jan. 1-March 31. He reported $886,000 in cash-on-hand after raising $89,000 this quarter.

Edwards announced late last week that she had raised about $335,000 since the beginning of the year, but has yet to report a cash-on-hand total. Van Hollen raised a robust $1.25 million – more than $1.1 million of it since Mikulski announced her retirement plans on March 2.

If Van Hollen has polled in the Senate race, his team is not making the results available. An Edwards campaign spokesman said yesterday that the congresswoman has yet to conduct a poll on the primary.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter -- @joshkurtznews

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.