One lawmaker will see a fruitful congressional career come to a screeching halt with a primary loss and be left to face an uncertain political future. The other will be a big favorite to win a November promotion and become a fixture in the upper chamber, where Maryland hasn’t been represented by a Republican in three decades.
The race has intensified over the last several weeks, and Monday was no exception, with the Edwards campaign calling Van Hollen “a business-as-usual Washington insider.”
The candidates, who are both 57, spent Monday on a final whirlwind campaigning blitz that brought them to schools, diners, senior centers, bustling Metro stations and sleepy neighborhood streets for a last-minute door-knocking effort.
“You’ve got to run hard across the finish line,” Van Hollen told The Hill after meeting voters at the Harford Senior Center.
The race has been much closer than initially expected. Van Hollen is the more prominent figure, with a longer congressional resume; he’s a budget gladiator and de facto leader who has close ties to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and he boasts a big cash advantage, outraising Edwards by almost $5 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.
But Edwards has been a force in her own right. She was tapped by Pelosi to co-chair the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee; she’s won endorsements from powerful groups like EMILY’s List that have spent heavily to promote her campaign; and in an election year that might send the first woman to the White House in the form of Hillary Clinton, Edwards, a single mother, is hoping to ride those coattails to become just the second African-American woman elected to the Senate in history.
Edwards’s campaign on Monday expressed confidence that voters will side with “someone ... who understands their lives.”
“We are making sure everyone we contact knows the choice they face, between a business-as-usual Washington insider looking for a promotion, or a bold change-maker who will fight every day for everyday Marylanders just like Barbara Mikulski,” spokesman Benjamin Gerdes said in an email.
Several recent polls have shown Van Hollen gaining an edge, including a Monmouth University poll released last week that has him up by 16 points. But earlier surveys had Edwards ahead, and many observers expect Tuesday’s contest to be a nail-biter.
“There’ve been all kinds of conflicting polls,” Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) told The Hill recently. “The only conclusion you can draw from the polls is that it’s a close race.” Like Mikulski, Delaney has remained neutral in the contest.
Of the two, Edwards has been the most liberal and the candidate I hope to see carry on Maryland's strong blue tradition in the Senate. Van Hollen is somewhat too close to DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for my taste, and we all know by now how I feel about her.
Van Hollen will win unless Baltimore turns out big for Edwards. We'll see.