Maryland's two black congressmen will formally endorse Kweisi Mfume's U.S. Senate bid today as Mfume and his chief Democratic rival, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, strive to lock up support from African American voters.
This is fairly significant for Mfume, who - by most accounts - hasn't been running what experts might call a stellar campaign. Fundraising has been a challenge; his ads are late and it's taken him a while to get these two critical CBC endorsements. But, to his credit, Mfume knows how to scrap being from the old school of hard knocks. And, he's got better name recognition - particularly throughout Black Maryland - than Cardin.
For Mfume, he faces a stiff Reticence Level amongst White Democrats. White voters in Maryland sure enough know Mfume and some even like him - but: are they willing to put a brother in the Senate? So he'll need Black Democrats to get him over that hump.
A couple of reasons why Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) are suddenly coming around after more than a year of speculation:
- Cummings realizes that he has a better chance of leveraging his power-base in Baltimore with a brother in the Senate rather than a White dude. It's pure culture and the mathematics of familiarity. Go with what you know. But, there is also real fear that Black Republican and Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Michael Steele - especially with endorsements from Russell Simmons and Cathy Hughes and other key figures - will win this race. Steele, hailing from Black money rush Prince George's County, Maryland, is sure to look out more for his home base in P.G. than Baltimore. On the flip side of that equation, a Senator Mfume would be more inclined to look out for his home base of B'More, translating into federal dollars for Cummings district.
- Wynn's endorsement is a bit more complicated, because Wynn is really concerned about Wynn right now. Even though he knows a Senator Steele will probably be the best thing to happen to P.G. County since big name retailers started moving in (depending on how you look at that), he's fighting for his political life right now in a tight race against primary challenger Donna Edwards, a fierce Black community activist who is making headway by blasting Wynn's vote for the Iraq War and characterizing him as not "progressive" enough. That message is resonating with Black P.G. voters. Wynn believes he gets instant street cred by endorsing Mfume.