Maryland Election 2010: Five reasons why Bob Ehrlich couldn't make the race close

The most recent polls put incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley (the guy in the foreground) up by double digits. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

In a year when Republicans are expected to win, well, pretty much every competitive partisan election, polls indicate that Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich’s campaign will today fail to even keep the election close. The most recent polls put incumbent Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley up by double digits. Five reasons Ehrlich's run hasn't generated excitement among the Old Line State's electorate:

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1. MARYLAND ISN’T NEW JERSEY OR VIRGINIA

Ehrlich began putting the wheels of his comeback bid in motion last November, shortly after Republican gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell won elections in New Jersey and Virginia, respectively. The logic was simple: New Jersey is a blue state like Maryland, and Virginia is a swing state that had been trending Democratic in recent years. If Republicans could win there, Ehrlich could win in Maryland.

There were a few key differences. McDonnell was running for an open seat, and Christie was challenging Jon Corzine and an entirely dysfunctional system of state and local government in New Jersey. O’Malley, meanwhile, was a strong incumbent. His popularity wasn’t sky-high, but considering the recession’s impact, it was strong.

The voters are more important than the candidate. In Maryland, the electorate was better off than it was in New Jersey. Spurred largely by federal spending, Maryland’s economy is ticking along with an unemployment rate lower than the national average.

Marylanders also won’t be so quick to abandon the Democratic party. The state has a much heftier black population — 29 percent to New Jersey’s 14 percent and Virginia’s 20 percent — and black voters have stronger Democratic partisanship than whites. Ehrlich has always made an effort to win over black voters, but O’Malley’s ability to ally himself with the nation’s first black president makes that harder.

2. WAITING MADE IT HARDER

When O’Malley, then mayor of Baltimore, challenged Ehrlich in 2006, he formally announced his bid in September 2005. His intentions had been clear for months before that, and squabbling had already begun between him and then-Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan, his rival for the Democratic nomination.

Ehrlich didn’t formally announce his run until March of this year. That give him only eight months to raise money, set up a statewide campaign operation and make the case against his opponent. Since Maryland’s governor isn’t allowed to raise money during the legislative session, Ehrlich also lost a crucial opportunity to catch up in the money game by waiting until after legislators left Annapolis to announce.

3. MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND (AND GETS TELEVISION ADVERTISING UP)

And Ehrlich’s failure to win the money game (or at least make it close) meant he couldn’t match O’Malley’s dominance of the broadcast media. Starting with mid-summer radio ads, O’Malley successfully managed to portray Ehrlich as a lobbyist and a shill for special interests. While Ehrlich fought back in the press and at public events, he didn't manage to respond over the air until September.

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