Ruppersberger widens lead over Bentley
                    Strong advertising is cited in 2nd District House race; Bentley loses
                    ground; advertising is credited

                          By Andrew A. Green
                          Sun Staff
                         Originally published October 31, 2002

                    For the first time, Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has opened a
                    significant lead against Republican Helen Delich Bentley in their race for
                    Maryland's 2nd Congressional District, according to a new poll.

                    The Maryland Poll - conducted for The Sun and The Gazette newspapers
                    - found that Ruppersberger, the Baltimore County executive, leads the
                    former congresswoman 46 percent to 38 percent, with 15 percent
                    undecided with less than a week before Election Day. When undecided
                    voters leaning one way or the other are taken into account,
                    Ruppersberger's lead increases to 49-40.

                    "The race has turned from a statistical dead heat into a contest that
                    appears to be Ruppersberger's to lose with one week to go," said Keith
                    Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research, which conducted the poll.

                    The survey of 478 voters, taken Sunday though Tuesday, is the first
                    published poll in which either candidate showed a lead greater than the
                    margin of error, which is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

                    The numbers suggest that in the waning days of the race, as both sides
                    have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television advertising,
                    Ruppersberger has done a better job of shifting attitudes about himself
                    and his opponent.

                    Early polls showed Bentley with an advantage in the ratio of voters who
                    viewed her favorably vs. unfavorably. But in this survey, 52 percent of
                    voters said they had a favorable impression of Ruppersberger and 33
                    percent unfavorable, compared with a 44-41 ratio for Bentley.

                    "Whatever voters have heard about her in the last 30 days, many of them
                    have some problems with the way the Bentley candidacy is being
                    portrayed," Haller said.

                    The Bentley campaign saw the poll as a good sign - they said their own
                    surveys from recent weeks had shown them even further behind, hurt by a
                    barrage of negative advertising paid for by the Maryland Democratic

                    "[Gov.] Parris Glendening has spent over $1 million in independent
                    expenditures to give Dutch a seat," said Michael S. Kosmas, Bentley's
                    campaign manager.

                    "We had fallen back even farther than your poll shows. Our national party
                    didn't even start fighting until a week ago, and we've closed back that
                    ground, and more of it is closing every day."

                    Democrats began running so-called issue ads supporting Ruppersberger
                    more than a month ago, but the Republican party only began airing
                    pro-Bentley ads last week.

                    Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for the National Republican
                    Congressional Committee,

                    said the party will likely still be "heavily involved" in Bentley's campaign to
                    the end.

                    Ruppersberger's campaign spokesman Rick Binetti said the Democrats
                    were heartened by the results.

                    "Polls are always nice when they go your way, but there's a job to do, and
                    we've got to continue pushing our message and using that message to turn
                    out the vote," he said.

                    Pulling ahead

                    As in the last Maryland Poll, taken a month ago, Bentley wins handily in
                    the Harford County portion of the district, and Ruppersberger wins easily
                    in Baltimore.

                    But in Anne Arundel County, where Ruppersberger has campaigned
                    heavily, he has pulled even, and in Baltimore County, which makes up the
                    bulk of the district, he has pulled solidly ahead.

                    The poll contains other troubling signs for Bentley.

                    Nearly half of undecided voters said they believe it is important to send
                    Democrats to Congress to offer a check to Republican power, while only
                    14 percent believed it was better to elect Republicans to help President
                    Bush with the war on terror.

                    Ruppersberger has also solidified his base among Democrats and
                    especially among African-Americans, the poll shows. Black voters, who
                    make up more than a quarter of the district's electorate, favor
                    Ruppersberger, 77 percent to 10 percent.

                    "If the Democrats come home to the congressional nominee in sufficient
                    numbers, there's just no way for Bentley to overcome that," Haller said.

                    More money

                    Ruppersberger also appears better situated financially for the final days of
                    the campaign. He has raised more money than Bentley - a little more than
                    $1 million to her $730,000 at last reporting - and he has more cash on

                    Bentley still has a major fund-raiser, with former New York Mayor
                    Rudolph W. Giuliani as the headliner, and has collected more than
                    $70,000 in the past week.

                    Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in
                    Westminster, who recently did an analysis of campaign ads in the race
                    with other area professors of politics, said Ruppersberger's negative ads
                    have been more sharply focused and better packaged than Bentley's,
                    Smith said.


                    Ruppersberger has also aired a simultaneous track of positive advertising
                    featuring Mayor Martin O'Malley asking voters to pick his friend, the
                    Baltimore County executive. Bentley has not had a purely positive ad on
                    the air in recent weeks.

                    "If you don't have the positives, your image gets filled in by your
                    opponents' negative spots," Smith said. "And Martin is like the Cal Ripken
                    of Maryland politics, particularly in the Baltimore metropolitan area."

                    Della Britt-Golden, 68, an African-American voter from Cherry Hill, said
                    it was Ruppersberger's in-person campaigning, not television ads, that
                    convinced her to vote for him.

                    She said he came with his entire family to speak at the Cherry Hill Senior
                    Center, and he impressed her with his friendliness and sincerity.

                    "Guess what? I'm going to get as many people to vote for him as I can,"
                    said the retiree. "He was so warm, and so many of the other politicians
                    never even bothered to come see the elderly, especially in Cherry Hill."

                    Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun