OK, one more blog before I hit the road.
As The Baltimore Sun reported, the final campaign finance numbers for the 2010 governor's race are in. Not too many real surprises here, as O'Malley outraised Ehrlich by about $3 million. This underscores the point I made in the op-ed I had in The Sun on November 3rd: Had Team Ehrlich started raising money in January - while O'Malley was prohibited by law from doing so - it could have leveled the fundraising landscape.
Team Ehrlich raised more than $7 million in a little over six months. That's an extraordinary accomplishment. But, starting earlier could have brought in enough money to fund one additional month of saturation TV advertising in both media markets. Or, it could have given the campaign the resources to run a radio ad campaign - perhaps in Western Maryland - the absense of which was quite noticeable in 2010.
The biggest surprise is the disparity in money each campaign still has on hand: Nearly $450,000 for Ehrlich, and nearly $176,000 for O'Malley.
Why would Team Ehrlich hold nearly half a million dollars back? I can think of three reasons, each involving an early realization among senior Ehrlich aides that their reelection bid probably would not succeed:
1) They decided to hold back funds to keep the campaign operating past Election Day. That would give some staffers a chance to keep drawing paychecks until they landed elsewhere.
2) They held money back in case Governor Ehrlich wants to maintain his state account as a vehicle to support future GOP candidates. Ehrlich has stated he won't run for office again, but this would allow him to play an elder statesman-type role in the party should he choose to. Retiring congressmen and senators with still flush federal campaign accounts often use them in a similar capacity.
3) They held money back so it could be used to finance a future bid for office by Kendel Ehrlich - perhaps for Anne Arundel County Executive in 2014.
I tend to believe the third scenario. People have speculated for years as to Mrs. Ehrlich's own political aspirations. At different times, I heard scenarios involving a judgeship, a state senate seat, and maybe the Anne Arundel County Council. But a candidacy for Anne Arundel County Executive is what I have heard most frequently.
Kendel Ehrlich is a smart, charismatic, outspoken woman. She should be taken seriously for whatever office she runs for. Should she decide to throw her own hat into the ring, I hope she will build a campaign founded on new ideas, energy, and personalities.
Change is frequently a good thing. But for Republicans in Maryland, it is a bare necessity.