NPR logo Sleeper Maryland Race Could Be Tuesday's Biggest Upset

Sleeper Maryland Race Could Be Tuesday's Biggest Upset

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigned for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown (right) in October. President Obama and Michelle Obama have also campaigned in the state. This level of Democratic star power so late in the race is unusual in a reliably blue state. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

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Patrick Semansky/AP

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton campaigned for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown (right) in October. President Obama and Michelle Obama have also campaigned in the state. This level of Democratic star power so late in the race is unusual in a reliably blue state.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Don't look now, but Democrats may be on the verge of losing more than just the Senate after Tuesday's election. The governor's race in Maryland, one of the bluest states in the nation, has gotten uncomfortably tight.

How nervous are they? Maryland Democrats have brought in the big guns to push their gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, over the finish line. First lady Michelle Obama was in Baltimore Monday, for an election eve rally. That visit came on the heels of recent appearances by two other A-list surrogates: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

Brown is still the favorite in the race. But the level of star power that's come in to help is unusual this late in the campaign for such a reliably blue state.

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a campaign rally in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan (right) in Baltimore. Jose Luis Magana/AP hide caption

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Jose Luis Magana/AP

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a campaign rally in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan (right) in Baltimore.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Businessman Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee, has also gotten some high-profile help. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, headlined a rally for Hogan over the weekend — the fourth time Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has done so. Hogan has also picked up an endorsement from the powerful National Rifle Association.

Most public polls show Brown has a modest, single-digit advantage. The Cook Political Report, a leading election handicapper, switched the rating for the race from "Leans Democrat" to "Toss Up" late last week.

In the final weekend of the campaign, Hogan and Brown were hopscotching the state trying to ignite an electorate that appears to be tepid toward both candidates. Hogan's campaign has focused on taxes and Maryland's slow economic recovery, while Brown has talked up expanding pre-K education programs.

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Keep in mind that Maryland has elected just one Republican governor since the late 1960s; Robert Ehrlich won in 2002 but lost his bid for a second term. And Democrats begin with a big edge: a 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.

But the state's early-voting period, which ended Thursday, revealed low participation in Maryland's two largest jurisdictions — Montgomery County and Prince George's County — two suburban Washington locales that typically deliver large Democratic margins. The two counties had a 5.6 percent and 8.5 percent turnout through Oct. 30, respectively.