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Battle for the Senate: Maryland

From MSNBC.com's Tom Curry

No Republican has won a Senate seat in Maryland in a quarter century. But Democrats both in Washington and in Maryland sound a bit fretful about Democrat Ben Cardin's race against this year's Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

"The (Cardin) literature is not strong enough," complained Democratic member of the House of Delegates Joanne Benson to Democratic party operative Artie Harris Sunday afternoon at an event in Upper Marlboro, Md. where Cardin was wooing black entrepreneurs. "Strong Democrats in Prince George's County don't want to support Michael Steele, but they do need to know more about Ben," said Benson, who represents a predominantly black district in Prince George's County. Prince George's County is Steele's home turf, and on Saturday he said he hopes to get 35% of the vote there, about 15 points better than GOP candidates usually do.

Racial politics is one reason Democrats sound a bit concerned about Steele. He is an African-American and Cardin defeated African-American rival Kweisi Mfume in the Democratic primary. Referring to the historic scarcity of blacks in top Maryland offices, Steele said, "Does that translate into votes for me? I don't know. That's my job to convince them that I'm worth the risk in November."

At the Upper Marlboro event, standing next to Cardin, Sen. John Kerry (D) addressed the hesitation black voters might feel about Cardin: "I know there are some folks here in Maryland, particularly in the minority community, who sometimes say, 'You know, I go out and I vote Democratic, but what do the Democrats do for me? Well, folks, Democrats haven't had their hands on the levers that can actually deliver since 1994 in the House and Senate and since 2000 in the White House."