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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Presidential election underscores Maryland’s wealth divide

POTOMAC, Maryland — Upon arriving in Stevensville after crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, drivers will notice something peculiar. It will take some time to set in, but as they continue east it will dawn on them.

There are Donald Trump signs everywhere.

There are so many Trump signs one might be tempted to question the validity of election forecasts assigning the New York real estate mogul a less than 1 percent chance of winning Maryland.

The Eastern Shore is far and away the reddest territory in the Old Line State. The region boasts Maryland’s lone Republican representative in Congress, Rep. Andrew Harris of Cockeysville. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney bested President Barack Obama in the district by almost 23 points in 2012, while Obama carried the rest of the state by 25.

There is a clear gap in ideology between the state’s blue urban center and its red outskirts. A major reason is economics, said Stella Rouse, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship.

Maryland is, by several measures, the nation’s wealthiest state. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey places the state’s median household income at $75,847, up roughly 10 percent from 2010.

But much of that growth and prosperity is concentrated between the metro areas of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Wages in the eastern and western rural regions of the state haven’t kept pace with its urban core, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These blue-collar areas mimic the economies of Rust Belt states like Ohio and Indiana, where wages aren’t as high and the loss of manufacturing jobs has offered Trump more of a receptive audience. Trump leads Clinton by 7 points in Indiana and 2.5 points in Ohio, according to press time polling averages from RealClearPolitics.

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