updated 9/25/2006 12:01:03 PM ET 2006-09-25T16:01:03

Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin holds an 11-point lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in the U.S. Senate race, according to poll results published Monday.

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Cardin leads Steele 51 percent to 40 percent in the poll, conducted Sept. 15-18 by Potomac Inc. of Bethesda. Results were published in The (Baltimore) Sun.

The two men are seeking to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes. Cardin won the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 12 primary, narrowly beating Kweisi Mfume, former head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Steele, the first black candidate elected statewide in Maryland, had faced only little-known opponents in the Republican primary.

Though he is white, Cardin holds a nearly 3-to-1 advantage among black voters in the heavily Democratic state, and he dominates in jurisdictions with the highest concentrations of black voters — Prince George’s County and Baltimore.

Steele leads in rural Maryland where the Republican Party is strongest, and with voters younger than 50.

“This is not the kind of lead that’s insurmountable at this stage,” said James G. Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park. “Cardin has a lead to protect, and Steele has to be the more aggressive campaigner.”

The telephone survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The statewide survey reached 815 likely voters.

Cardin benefits from the unpopularity of President Bush in the state, said Keith Haller of Potomac Inc. Only 34 percent of those surveyed approved of Bush’s performance as president.

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