Bob Ehrlich And Martin O’Malley In Maryland

Posted on October 20, 2010


Bob Ehrlich signMartin O'Malley sign

Republican prospects for making significant gains in true-blue Maryland this election year are slip slidin’ away, to borrow a Paul Simon phrase.

The reason is hiding in plain sight.

At left, EHRLICH. Period.

At right below, O’MALLEY-BROWN.

Begging the question, EHRLICH and WHO?

Does Bob Ehrlich have a running mate? If so, WHO might that be? While we’re at it, WHO is on the Republican ticket with Bob Ehrlich for the other statewide offices: Comptroller, Attorney General, and U.S. Senate? Can you name them? If shown a list of names, could anyone even guess who they are?

The quick summary: No political party can win an election without candidates. That’s the Republicans in Maryland, in a nutshell.

(Note: The latest Gonzalez poll, released this week, shows  O’Malley-Brown opening a five-point lead over Ehrlich-WHO, 47 percent to 42 percent, with six percent undecided. The 47-42 percent lead is real, since it’s greater than the statistical margin of error.)

I’m a lifelong Marylander, and I think government and politics in my state would be better if we had a viable two-party system. I’m also a lifelong Democrat, so I can’t solve that problem. It’s not my fault that the Republican Party in Maryland can’t field more than one viable candidate. The Republicans have to take responsibility for that.

And the Democratic sign? “O’Malley Brown.” See the difference, Martin O’Malley is a candidate for governor, and he has a bona fide running mate for lieutenant governor.

The conventional wisdom is that the candidate for vice president in national elections doesn’t make a difference, and the candidate for lieutenant governor in state elections doesn’t matter. Well, it does matter, if that candidate is named WHO?

Bob Ehrlich is a well-liked man in Maryland. His singular claim to fame is that he was elected governor eight years ago, and promptly discharged four years later. Eight years ago, Bob Ehrlich had as a running mate a strong African-American candidate from Prince Georges County named Michael Steele. Ehrlich and Steele. Their names and photos were always together. Ehrlich hailed Mr. Steele as a genuine partner in government. Ehrlich and Steele had political chemistry. Ehrlich and Steele won.

Four years a go, the Ehrlich-Steele team broke up. Mr. Ehrlich was unable to find another Republican to compare with Mr. Steele.  So Ehrlich selected a nonentity as running mate and introduced the one-name campaign sign pictured above, the same one he’s using again this year. Maryland voters promptly discharged Mr. Ehrlich from office.

Maryland voters replaced Ehrlich-Steele with O’Malley-Brown. Anthony Brown is a strong, African-American candidate from Prince Georges County. What a coincidence. O’Malley and Brown are still together and running for re-election this year. Don’t mess with success.

Meanwhile, Bob Ehrlich made the the same mistake as four years ago. He chose a different running mate, but with the same name, WHO?

So the political lesson? The running mate doesn’t matter, as long as he or she is a strong, legitimate candidate with qualifications to step in and do the top job if needed.

Another lesson worth noting in Maryland: It’s not wise to ignore the state’s largest voting block, African-Americans, and it’s definitely not wise to ignore Prince Georges County. A geographical footnote: Ehrlich’s WHO lives in Potomac, the wealthiest enclave in Montgomery County. But O’Malley’s roots are deep in middle-class Rockville, also in Montgomery County. Just another one of those little coincidences.

One more telling difference on those campaign signs above. The O’Malley-Brown sign has three little words: “Moving Maryland Forward.”

The Ehrlich sign has two little words: “For Governor.”

O’Malley and Brown want to more Maryland forward. Ehrlich and WHO want to be governor. See the difference?

The Republicans enduring problem in Maryland is this: You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and you can’t beat political vision with political ambition.

— John Hayden