Democrats used to have a vice-like grip on Maryland politics, but in the 2002 mid-term elections Robert Ehrlich beat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who many had seen as the brightest of the new Kennedy generation, to the governorship. His victory ended her career and loosened the Democratic grip.
Even so, it is hard to see Maryland backing President Bush in 2004, such was Al Gore's victory margin at the last election.
One reason for this is the large black and minority population - Maryland is one of the few states where minorities make up more than a third of the population.
Population: 5,296,486 (ranked 19 among states)
Governor: Robert Ehrlich (R)
Electoral college votes: 10
Its sprawling suburbs include many ethnic neighbourhoods such as Little Italy and the state has been leading efforts to try to limit and mitigate the effects of suburban sprawl.
The seventh state to ratify the constitution, Maryland's economy used to depend on the rich marine pickings of Chesapeake Bay, the US's largest estuary, which swarms with rockfish, shellfish and crabs.
House of Representatives:
6 Democrat, 2 Republican
Senate: 2 Democrat
But the most important area for the economy now is at either end of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. This metropolitan area is now the fourth-largest in the country.
The suburbs of Washington DC spill out into and beyond Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Meanwhile Baltimore is the centre of Maryland's economic and public life and it has been working hard to regenerate itself.
2000: Bush 40%, Gore 57%
1996: Clinton 54%, Dole 38%
1992: Clinton 50%, Bush 36%, Perot 14%
The city's commercial downtown and skyscraper waterfront is a big tourist attraction, as well as home to investment banks and the headquarters of the Social Security Administration. The National Security Agency is located between Baltimore and Washington.