Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Team Ehrlich Responds To WaPo Poll

Below is an email sent out by Team Ehrlich rebutting the results of the latest Washington Post poll which has Governor O’Malley leading former Governor Ehrlich 52 to 41 percent among likely voters. As per my practice, the only edit I made to the email is to remove the name of the person who forwarded it to me (though I received it from more than one source).

I have not had a chance to delve into the poll’s methodology, but I do have a few comments:

  • If the poll is accurate and two-thirds of undecideds break in Ehrlich’s favor (as usually happens when an incumbent faces a challenger), O’Malley would win by 54 to 46 percent over Ehrlich were the election to be held today.
  • I concur with Team Ehrlich’s assessment that black turnout will not be the 25 percent we witnessed in 2008, when Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket. As I have argued consistently on this blog and in op-eds I have written for the Baltimore Sun, black turnout is the “ball game” as far as this election is concerned. 
  • I’m not sure the 2009 Virginia governor's race is germane here. Deeds and McDonnell were non-incumbents running for an open seat. So, the Post poll showing only a four point spread separating the candidates in Virginia may therefore have been accurate when it was taken because Deeds and McDonnell were relative unknowns still in the process of defining themselves with voters. By contrast, Ehrlich and O'Malley are both well-known personalities, making it difficult to imagine that we will witness a wild seesaw of support between them. Indeed, previous polls have consistently portrayed a tight race, with Governor O'Malley enjoying a modest edge.
  • One can make the case that the Democratic Governors Association started running ads because the Republican Governors Association did so.
  • Team Ehrlich is correct about Democrats underperforming during the primary. In fact, Martin O'Malley received 120,000 fewer votes than he did in 2006. Further, when you factor in the votes of the two no-name candidates who ran against him, the overall total is still less than what O'Malley received in the primary as the only candidate four year ago.
  • Ehrlich has his own concerns when it comes to base voters. In the 2010 primary, he won fewer votes than he did either in 2002 or 2006. To simply assume that all Republicans will show up and vote for Ehrlich - as the Ehrlich campaign did in 2006 - would be a miscalculation. Some outreach is going to be necessary to energize conservatives, especially those who backed Brian Murphy.
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: John Reith <>
Sent: Wed, September 29, 2010 11:14:31 AM
Subject: Ehrlich campaign on the Washington Post poll

Ehrlich Campaign on The Washington Post Poll

The Washington Post released this morning is severely flawed and bears no resemblance to any other public poll over the past four months that have shown this race to be statistically tied.  Here are some important points to consider:

·         This poll assumes the same, unprecedented turnout among young democrats and African American voters that turned out for Barack Obama in 2008, an assumption that is both implausible and impossible.

·         The Post poll shows Ehrlich with 27% of the vote in Montgomery County, a preposterously low number.  He received 38% of the Montgomery County vote in 2002 and 36% in 2006.  Ellen Sauerbrey received 42% of the Montgomery County vote in 1994.  The base republican vote in the County is in the high 30’s.  There can be no plausible argument that Ehrlich will be 10 points below that.

·         The Washington Post's own Chris Cillizza, Real Clear Politics, UVA's respected Larry Sabato, and Rasmussen Reports all rank this race in their "toss up" categories. In fact, The Post’s Cillizza upgraded the race from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up” just one week ago.

·         The Post poll over samples Democrats among those surveyed, tilting the results toward Democrat candidates.

·         Example:  Exactly 1 year ago, The Post poll stated that Democrat Creigh Deeds was within striking distance - just four points - of Bob McDonnell in the Virginia Governor's race. One month later, McDonnell won by 18 points. Most polls have a margin of error of 3 points. Given their complete misreading of Virginia’s electorate, The Post should have a margin of error of 14.

·         The Post poll was conducted on a Friday night, ensuring they would reach a very different population than any other poll. 

·         The Democratic Governors Association wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands in attack ads against Bob Ehrlich if they thought The Post poll was accurate.

·         The facts on the ground simply prove the Post poll wrong: Since the start of the campaign, challenger Bob Ehrlich has out raised incumbent Martin O'Malley. In the last campaign finance reporting period, Ehrlich out raised O'Malley nearly 3 to 1.

·         It fails to account for GOP enthusiasm and corresponding lack of enthusiasm among Democrats. We saw very poor turnout in majority Democrat jurisdictions in this year’s primary. In some jurisdictions, Democrat primary turnout reached 30 year lows. Martin O'Malley actually received 29,000 fewer votes in this year’s primary than Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the primary in 2002. 

·         Bob Ehrlich's campaign has been focused entirely on leading a lasting economic recovery in Maryland to raise quality of life for families. Every credible poll in this race shows Marylanders share this priority and have a positive perception of Ehrlich. 

·         Meanwhile, Martin O'Malley has been focused on dishonest attacks since the first week of the campaign and hasn't let up, because he cannot defend his record of massive job losses, record tax hikes, and ballooning debt.

·         Now Martin O'Malley is making stuff up - and even covering stuff up - in order to win this election. To read more, click here.  

Please know that we have new ads countering all of the O’Malley negative ads.  The timing of this poll came before our first responses hit the air. 

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at 410-336-6298.


JR Reith

John C. Reith

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Presidential Heavyweights Coming To Maryland

Two presidents are coming in to Maryland to campaign in October.

On October 7, President Obama, who has taped a radio ad backing Governor O'Malley, will swing into Prince George’s County to host a rally supporting the governor. And, on October 10, former President Bill Clinton will raise money for Senator Barbara Mikulski and the Maryland Democratic Party.

While neither of these announcements is unexpected, I have two questions:

1) If the goal of Obama’s visit is to mobilize black voters, would his visit have greater impact coming closer to Election Day? Perhaps, which is why I think he may make a follow-up visit before all is said and done.

2) Will the Ehrlich campaign bring in its own luminaries for fundraising purposes?  Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Haley “Who are you and why are you calling my cell phone” Barbour, and former Gov. Mitt Romney are  possibilities. I have ever heard that two conservative Hollywood actors with careers anchored in the 1980s – Craig T. Nelson and George Newbern – were approached early in the campaign. Of course, there’s always Sarah Palin and two former Presidents Bush – but I would not hold your breath in at least two of those cases.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Endorses Illegal Immigration

With respect to the national debate regarding illegal immigration, I have listened to people on both sides of the issue argue passionately for their views. But I never heard anyone proudly declare herself to be "pro illegal immigration" before.

Well, that is until this past weekend.

During her appearance as a panelist on the episode of WMAR's Square Off which aired September 26, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - former lieutenant governor, former gubernatorial nominee, and eldest daughter of Robert F. Kennedy - proudly and enthusiastically declared her support for illegal immigration.

Don't take my word for it. Read the transcript below, or watch the segment yourself (the exchange in question appears just before the first commercial break).

Bob Scherr (BS): I’m against illegal immigration.

Hassan Murphy (HM): Everyone is against illegal immigration.

Richard Sher (RS): Kathleen is not. Why?

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (KKT): I think immigrants have made this country strong.

BS: Yeah, legal immigrants.

KKT: I think illegal ones and legal ones have made our country strong. The way that you – the way that we have our immigration policy now is we, you know, allow the educated to come in but not the uneducated. That’s basically how – so that people who are working in the farm – the farm workers, people who are working in the hotels are often not legal.

BS: I’m a little...

KKT: Wait a minute…let me finish this, because it’s really…wrong. And, if you think about how our country is going to be strong, it’s going to get young people, immigrants, to come in and work and be able to contribute and my great grandparents -

BS: Am I hearing correctly that you have no problem with illegal immigration at all?

KKT: No.

BS: Really?

KKT: I certainly don’t

RS: (To Scher) Why does that stun you?

KKT: Why would it? I’m really proud of my family, and that distin…

BS: That position is to the left of any position I have ever heard. At least other people are saying, “Let’s grant amnesty.” You’re not – you’re one step to the left of that. You’re saying, “Why bother to grant amnesty? Just let all the illegals come in.”

KKT: I actually think that, if you look at a country, a country does well, just as people do well, when they are young. You have energy. You want to work hard. As you get older, you lose that energy. And young immigrants coming in will give us the new energy we need in this country…”

At that point, host Richard Sher interrupted Mrs. Townsend to take a commercial break. But I think you get the point.

Mrs. Townsend is, by all accounts, an intellectual and thoughtful woman with a penchant for making gaffes. But I am not sure this remark can be explained away as simply another "Hispanish"- type moment on the part of a well-documented political stumblebum. 

Gaffes are committed by politicians still competing in the political arena. Mrs. Townsend, now a lecturer at Georgetown University, is a private citizen simply telling us what she believes.

Her "I loved my grandparents so let's open up the borders" rationale raises more questions than it answers.  What would this mean for traditional notions of citizenship? Would it still have to be earned, or would it be available to anyone who shows up? How would cash-strapped states and localities fund the services these new citizens would need?  And, shouldn't there be consequences for breaking current immigration laws?

Personally, I believe that the borders should be secured, and a path to citizenship established for the illegal immigrants who are here. But achieving that kind of balanced public policy outcome becomes less likely as long as opinion-makers like Mrs. Townsend espouse such an extremist, polarizing position.

I have been following Mrs. Townsend's career since 1986. Whenever she approaches a microphone, rarely does she not say or do something that causes me to scratch my head in disbelief. Still, her remarks do bring clarity in one respect: Regardless of who wins the 2010 gubernatorial election, it's clear that Maryland voted for the right person in 2002.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Sun Forums

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Baltimore Sun talk forums is a subsection of the newspaper’s website. The forums allow Sun readers to discuss a variety of topics spanning a wide range of areas of interest. But, the local news section of the forums attracts the most energetic participants.

There, hyper-partisans anonymously abuse each other using such creative aliases like “Senator James,”  “Yellow Timbers,” “Chesapeake Terp,” “Kitty,” and “Sloopy.”  Most of the combatants seem to be backers of either Governor O’Malley or former Governor Ehrlich. Their attacks on each other are sometimes funny, but more often shrill, nasty, uninformed, and downright mean.

One of the favorite sports on the forum is to try to guess the real identities of posters. So, I wasn’t really surprised when my friend Joe Steffen alerted me to the fact that one poster recently accused another – someone calling him/herself “Omar” – of being "Richard." In fact, over the years, I have been accused of posting on the Sun forums under at least four different names. Steffen has experienced the same phenomenon.

Being something of a constructive critic of the strategies employed by the Republican Party and the personalities therein, I realize I have made myself something of a target for those who wish I would simply shut up and go away. I accept that as being a consequence of climbing inside the arena.

So, attack me if you want. But just make sure the person you’re attacking is actually, well, me.

For the record, I have never posted on the Sun forums as “Omar.” Never.

Have I posted on the forums? Yes, I have. But only in the distant past. I now have this blog, and the occasional op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun, to serve as my soap boxes when I need to vent.

I stopped visiting the forums because the level of debate there is shrill, obnoxious, and ultimately unconstructive.  Certain members of Ehrlich's Theme Team – and their Chesapeake Terp handler – should consider following suit. Chasing down and taking shots in the dark at phantoms in cyberspace is wasted energy, not to mention pathetic.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Following The Signs in Baltimore County

Everyone is looking for some sign of what Joe Bartenfelder's intentions are. Will he endorse the man who beat him in the Baltimore County Executive's race, Kevin Kamenetz? Will he back Republican Ken Holt? Or, will he just sit this race out entirely?

So far, the clearest sign of Bartenfelder's intentions may be the signs themselves. Campaign signs, that is.

This sign, which features Holt's Coca Cola-inspired moniker, was spotted in Perry Hall. What's interesting about it is that, not long ago, the very same frame once housed a Joe Bartenfelder sign. The homeowners apparently swapped out one sign for another sometime after the primary election.

My spies in Baltimore County tell me that this is not an isolated incident. Holt signs are popping up systematically in frames which once held Joe Bartenfelder signs. The speed by which this seems to be happening causes me to believe that this is part of an orchestrated effort, rather than individual homeowners all suddenly deciding to do this on their own.

Did the Holt campaign contact these homeowners using a list that Team Bartenfelder gave them? Or is Team Bartenfelder - still stinging over the negative campaign tactics waged by Kamenetz - doing this on its own?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Ehrlich Attack Ad Launches

Bob Ehrlich's new ad, "Remember," can be viewed here.  This ad is significant for a few reasons.

First, it is Ehrlich's first "negative" ad of this cycle. O'Malley went negative with those ridiculous "Bob Ehrlich caused the oil spill" radio spots last summer, and launched attack ads in the Baltimore-Washington TV markets just prior to the primary. The ads the RGA is running on Ehrlich's behalf have a negative tone to them, but they were not produced by the Ehrlich campaign.

Second, Ehrlich invokes the memory of the 2006 BGE rate increase - and O'Malley's inability to deliver on his promise to roll back the rate hikes. I am skeptical as to whether raising the BGE specter is a wise campaign tactic. The rate increases took effect years ago, and have since been absorbed by most ratepayers. People are concerned about jobs and the economy now, not something that happened in 2006. 

Further, Ehrlich raising the issue now gives O'Malley a chance to fire back his own volley of blame, while touting the fact that he succeeded in negotiating two modest credits for ratepayers. So, while O'Malley didn't keep his promise, Ehrlich's ad gives him an opening to claim that at least he did something - and Ehrlich didn't. I think that mitigates the issue's effectiveness.

These strategic concerns notwithstanding, I think mentioning the BGE rate hike here is OK. The ad's broader purpose is to undermine O'Malley's believability - just as O'Malley tried to do to Ehrlich with his "Credibility" ad which launched before the primary. It underscores this point by referencing the 7,000 jobs recently lost, juxtaposing the news with O'Malley's own rosy rhetoric about recent job creation successes.

All in all, another well-produced, effective TV ad by Team Ehrlich.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bob Ehrlich, By The Numbers

Bob Ehrlich won his race for governor in 2002 because he racked up majorities in six suburban counties sizable enough to offset Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s victories in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

These counties, and Ehrlich’s 2002 margin of victory, were Howard (55 percent), Anne Arundel (65 percent), Harford (74 percent), Baltimore County (61 percent), Frederick (66 percent) and Carroll (79 percent).

Further, Ehrlich’s margin of victory in Baltimore County (nearly 63,000 votes) accounts for nearly his entire statewide victory margin (more than 66,000 votes).

Four years later, Ehrlich won five out of these six counties, but by more anemic margins. He underperformed in Frederick (60 percent), Harford (63 percent), Carroll (70 percent), Anne Arundel (57 percent) and Baltimore (51 percent) while losing Howard (49 percent).

As Ehrlich lost ground in these and other counties he won in 2002, Martin O’Malley improved upon Lieutenant Governor Townsend’s performance in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties – but not, curiously enough, in Baltimore City.

Now, with the Ehrlich-O’Malley rematch set, it is clear that the races outcome hinges to some extent on Ehrlich’s performance in each of these jurisdictions. No one doubts that he will run the table on all of them with the possible exception of Howard. But the real question is, will his margins be closer to 2002 or 2006?

Of all these, Baltimore County seems like Ehrlich’s best opportunity to maximize his performance. Ehrlich is clearly winning the sign war in his home county. Moreover, O’Malley was held to a 76 percent primary performance in the county by two no-name opponents. Without Jim Smith managing O’Malley’s county campaign this time, the moment seems right for Ehrlich to poll in the mid-to-high 50s.

Harford County is another prime opportunity for Ehrlich to improve over 2006. Republicans dominate the county, which now has a GOP majority in terms of registration. Further, Ehrlich represented it in Congress for eight years and remains a popular figure there, so a performance north of 70 percent is a realistic possibility.

Republican-leaning Anne Arundel County, where Ehrlich now lives, is also a prime growth opportunity for the Ehrlich campaign – assuming the slots referendum doesn’t adversely factor into the mix somehow.

Carroll County should treat Ehrlich well, too. It is rural, agrarian, and very Republican. Leveraging the county’s social conservatism, Brian Murphy won one in four votes during the recent primary. Ehrlich will win Carroll big, but how big depends on his ability to generate enthusiasm for his own campaign among Murphy supporters.

The last two counties are a little harder to forecast.

Since Ehrlich's first win there eight years ago, Frederick County’s demographics have changed as it has become a bedroom community for the District of Columbia. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain only beat President Obama there by a point. I still think Ehrlich wins it comfortably. As for winning 66 percent again, it is worth noting that was the exact result he got against Brian Murphy in the county's primary.

Of the five, Howard County is the biggest tossup.  The county has drifted to the left in recent years. President Obama carried it by 20 points in 2008. Democratic County Executive Ken Ulman is a popular figure who appears to be cruising to reelection.  Winning 55 percent there again may be a tall order for Ehrlich.

For a Republican to win statewide in Maryland, a perfect alignment of circumstances is necessary. Ehrlich must take each of these counties by super-majorities as a prerequisite of winning. Right now, it certainly seems possible, but implausible. Maryland 2010 is just a different place than Maryland 2002. And, Martin O’Malley isn’t Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The Lay Of The Political Landscape

Looking at voter registration figures revealed a few patterns that might help us better understand the challenges facing both gubernatorial candidates in the 2010 election season.

Back in 2002, when Bob Ehrlich became the first Republican elected governor in 36 years, Democrats comprised 56 percent of all registered voters. Republicans hovered around 30 percent of the electorate, and “unaffiliated” voters clocked in at 13 percent.

As of August 2010, Democratic registration was still at about 56 percent. But unaffiliated voters now comprise 15 percent of the electorate, and Republican registration had fallen under 27 percent.

The hard numbers tell an even more interesting story.

Today there are nearly 380,000 more registered Democrats in Maryland than in 2002 – a 24 percent increase. Moreover, Republicans have added only 77,000 voters – a 9 percent increase. Percentage-wise, the biggest gains were seen among unaffiliated voters, who picked up more than 160,000 new voters, a 44 percent increase.

These numbers tell us two things.

First, Martin O’Malley’s biggest challenge is enthusiasm, not numbers. He has the electorate he needs to win, but whether or not he can inspire them to show up and vote remains an unanswered question.

The 2010 primary election results illustrate how big this challenge is.  O’Malley won nearly 415,000 votes against two non-name challengers. That amount is 110,000 less than the amount he got in 2006. This is especially shocking when you consider Democratic registration gains.  

The bottom line: O’Malley needs to mobilize his base in a year unfavorable to Democrats. If African Americans show up to the polls in respectable numbers in both Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, he wins.

Second, Bob Ehrlich’s challenge is both numbers and enthusiasm. Not only did one in four GOP primary voters vote for Brian Murphy this year, Ehrlich polled less than he did in both 2002 and 2006.  

Ehrlich needs to seal the deal with some GOP rank and file voters who do not like Governor O’Malley, but also regard Ehrlich - the incumbent GOP gubernatorial nominee running in an anti-incumbent year - with suspicion because of his past record of tax, spending, and fee increases.  To win, he needs virtually every GOP voter to show up and vote.

But GOP voters are only one sliver of a winning coalition for Ehrlich. He also needs to sweep unaffiliated voters and pick up a slice of disaffected Democrats. That entails both broadening the appeal of his message and tapping into voters’ passions. To do that, he will have to run as a credible agent of change and not the lesser of two evils.

Simply put, Ehrlich needs to ride the wave, while O’Malley needs to field a ground game that delivers.  Each challenge is more difficult than it sounds.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mike Ertel 2010, Please Meet Mike Ertel 2002

Baltimore County is a political hotbed this year. At least five of the seven council seats will soon be occupied by new faces, and the county executive's race between Kevin Kamenetz and Ken Holt looks to be surprisingly competitive.

For me, however, the most interesting race is the contest for the Fifth Councilmanic District between Perry Hall's David Marks and Towson's Mike Ertel, because it seems to be the only general election contest in which two Republicans will be facing each other.

In all fairness, Ertel is the Democratic nominee, having defeated Bill Paulshock and Gordon Hardin in the primary. So, he is the Democratic standard bearer of record.

But, some of his past writings call into question Ertel's allegiance to the Democratic party, and to some of its local leaders.

In a 2002 letter published in Patuxent Publishing newspapers titled, "Neighborhoods around Towson must fight like other areas do,"  Ertel had some nasty things to stay about the Democratic establishment, as well as nice things to say about Republicans.

In his polemic, Ertel argues that Towson's best interests have not been well served, blaming this phenomenon on the "weak help" the community received "from its elected representatives and the iron fist of a short-sighted county executive." He then accuses the Ruppersberger Administration of granting Owings Mills, White Marsh and Northern Baltimore County preferential treatment by funneling "development and new tax dollars" into these communities while ignoring others.

"Expect more of the same if Jim Smith gets elected," Ertel warns, "(as) he thinks Baltimore County is encompassed by Reisterstown to Parkton to Owings Mills."

Ertel urges readers to embrace change by voting for Republicans Helen Bentley (then challenging Dutch Ruppersberger for the 2nd District congressional seat he now occupies) and Doug Riley (Jim Smith's 2002 opponent for Baltimore County Executive). "(M)ake sure at the voting booth that you show Dutch and his hand-picked successor, Jim Smith, the door," Ertel concludes.

Ertel seems to have undergone something of an ideological conversion since that letter was published. He now wants to join the Democratic establishment headed by Congressman Ruppersberger and County Executive Smith.

Does Ertel now believe that Jim Smith brought about "more of the same"? Is he sufficiently over his past issues to the point that he can now comfortably and credibly run with other members of the County's ruling Democratic establishment?  Will he now seek campaign funding from a man he once thought deserved "the door"?

Stay tuned. Having grown up in the Towson and Timonium areas, I can tell you that Baltimore County politics is frequently fractious, but rarely dull.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RGA Redux

The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post are now both reporting that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) ad buy in support of Bob Ehrlich which I blogged about last Thursday begins today.

The RGA has made ad buys in both the Baltimore and Washington media markets, including a $61,000 buy at WBAL TV.

The RGA's new video, "Backwards," attacks Governor O'Malley's record on jobs and taxes. It can be viewed here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Precious: The Bitch Is Back...Sort Of

Having been involved in politics for a fairly long time, rarely do things surprise me anymore. However, recently I was surprised by news of a reconciliation occurring between two formidable veterans of Baltimore County politics.

No, I’m not talking about Joe Bartenfelder and Kevin Kamenetz. I’m talking about Bob Ehrlich and Don Crockett.

For those of you who’ve never heard of him, Crockett is a political activist from Eastern Baltimore County, as well as a member of the Battle Grove Democratic Club. But, Crockett’s notoriety stems mainly from the fact that he was the owner of “Precious the Skateboard Dog.”

If you’ve ever attended a parade in Baltimore County during the past two decades, you probably know who I’m talking about.

Precious was a sweaty mutt who Crockett attired in oversized sunglasses and outrageous Lady Gagaesque doggy outfits. He then stationed the dog onto a skateboard and dragged it around in parades, at community festivals, and other high profile events. Precious’s endorsement was highly coveted by political candidates because the dog – and whichever candidate’s bumper stickers happened to adorn its makeshift chariot – inevitably received media coverage.

Precious was an early and enthusiastic backer of Ehrlich’s campaigns for Congress. I can still remember driving Ehrlich in one of the local parades in 1995, Precious and Crockett walking ahead of us. Watching kids pelt the dog with snap-and-pops was disturbing. But the dog’s surreally inanimate nature, even in the face of these attacks, was downright creepy.

My coworkers in Ehrlich’s congressional office were not fans of the dog, either. I remember one of them referring to Precious as an “oversized rat in a dress.”

Eventually, Precious and Ehrlich had a falling out. Part of the reason was the dog’s shameless willingness to hop across the political fence for the sake of self-promotion. I even remember watching election night coverage in 1995, and seeing Precious and Crockett at a Kurt Schmoke victory party. Both were wearing those signature yellow and black “Reelect Mayor Schmoke” tee shirts.  

But the main reason for the falling out occurred in 1998, when Precious supported incumbent state Senator Mike Collins against the Ehrlich-backed candidate, then-state Delegate Ken Holt. The bitch’s candidate prevailed, and an estrangement between Team Ehrlich and Team Precious began that lasted more than a decade.

This year, however, Ehrlich and the hydrant sniffer’s dad decided to let bygones be bygones. Citing an aversion to Governor O’Malley, Don Crockett has climbed back onboard the Ehrlich volunteer bandwagon.

However, Precious did not join him. Sadly, the original Precious entered the flea bath in the sky in 2006.

Precious II has ably taken the original's place. Still, given breakthroughs in taxidermy and animatronics, I’m surprised Crockett didn’t decide to keep the original Precious around on its bewheeled perch indefinitely. The dog seemed barely alive to begin with. With the application of some creativity and innovative use of technology, getting a new dog might not even have been necessary.

Primary Election 2010: Team Ehrlich's Take

Below is an email sent out by John Reith of the Ehrlich campaign analyzing the primary election results from Team Ehrlich's perspective. I have not edited this other than to remove the name of the person who sent it to me.

---------- Original Message ----------

From: John Reith
Subject: Observation from the Ehrlich Campaign - Tuesdays Election Results
Date: Friday, September 17, 2010, 4:07 PM


Thank you all for voting on Tuesday!

Over the last several days we have been able to analyze the numbers and the
results.  Here are a few of our observations:

·         *Republican turnout was higher than Democrats, the last time that
happened was 2002, when Bob Ehrlich was elected. *

·         *The Gazette’s Blair Lee writes today of “an enthusiasm shift” in
Maryland: “In the 2006 gubernatorial primary, Democrats made up 71 percent
of the turnout, while Republicans were 29 percent. This year, Democrats were
only 63 percent of the gubernatorial primary vote, while Republicans were 37
percent, quite a shift.**”*

·         *Martin O’Malley received 29,000 fewer votes from Democrats than
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did in 2002*

·         *60,000 Democrats voted against Martin O’Malley in their primary,
choosing instead 2 unknown candidates who had no money, no ads, no agendas,
and no media coverage. This is a significant blow to O’Malley. *

·         *Todd Eberly, Political Science Professor from St. Mary’s College,
said on FOX 45 Wednesday, that under the current conditions Bob Ehrlich
would win the election. *

·         *The anti-incumbent mentality showed in several elections in the
House and Senate.*

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the
campaign.  Please share this with your family, friends and business
associates who you think will be interested in this information.

Yesterday, the Campaign released its second television advertisement,
entitled “Roadmap.”  The 30-second ad will air in the Baltimore TV market.
It can also be viewed by* clicking here<;
* or by visiting Bob Ehrlich’s Youtube and Facebook pages.  In the ad, Bob
Ehrlich outlines a Roadmap to 2020, his ten year vision for Maryland.  To
read the roadmap,* click here;*.

Have a great weekend and remember we need your help and support to get Bob
Ehrlich elected as the next Governor of Maryland.


John C. Reith
*Ehrlich for Maryland Committee*
1840-G York Road
Lutherville, MD  21093

Harmony Comes to Team Wargotz

Two of my recent blog subjects - Bo Harmon and Dr. Eric Wargotz - have just popped up recently in the news.

Paul West of the Baltimore Sun reports that the dial-happy doctor has just hired Harmon to be his campaign director in his bid to unseat Senator Barbara Mikulski.

Harmon was, of course, the campaign manager of record for Bob Ehrlich's Lusitania-like 2006 reelection effort. Since then, he worked on John McCain's presidential race and for a Virginia-based political firm.

I have some words of advice for both these guys.

Bo, I hope you go with the cell phone plan that maximizes the number of minutes you have each month. You'll need it.

Dr. Wargotz, Bo was known for his enthusiasm during the 2006 Ehrlich bid. In fact, at one point, the hirsute Harmon even shaved an "E" onto his chest in order to show his support for Ehrlich. I think you deserve a "W," don't you?

New O'Malley Campaign Ad Debuts

A new Martin O'Malley TV ad debuted in the Baltimore media market this weekend. The ad continues the campaign's strategy of undermining Governor Ehrlich's claims of fiscal responsibility.

In a change election cycle, anything that erodes the perception that a vote for Ehrlich is a vote for change benefits O'Malley. Simply put, if the races is framed as a choice between two tax and spend governors - the only difference being one spent more than he taxed, and one taxed more than he spent - some Republicans and independent-leaning voters may choose to sit the race out. To win, Ehrlich needs every one of these voters to show up at the polls.

Further, the points raised by the ad are repeated in campaign materials that were distributed door-to-do by Democrats in Baltimore County this weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

But Who Will Play Shemp?

The Baltimore Sun ran this picture of Bob Ehrlich getting his hair cut at the Dundalk barber shop where he's supposedly been going for more than 30 years.

Um, is it just me, or does the way his hair is combed and the expression on his face kind of evoke the legendary Moe Howard of "Three Stooges" fame?

Anyone who knows me will tell you I like taking famous movies and recasting them with people from my life. It's a fun little intellectual exercise.

So, for fun's sake, if we're recasting the Stooges and Ehrlich plays Moe, campaign simian Greg Massoni is a natural choice to play Curley. Physically he looks the part, and happens to have many real life stooge qualities he can bring to the role.

As for Larry, how about hapless campaign spokesman Andy Barth? He'd have to grow his hair a little, but the pummeling he has taken from the political press and the O'Malley campaign during his shaky tenure as campaign spokesman prepared him well for Moe-style slaps upside his head.

Hmmmm....maybe I need to cast the Marx Brothers next. I need to think that over, but I'm pretty sure Paul Schurick would play Groucho. Trust me...I mean that as a compliment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Your Modern Stone Age Politico

According to Merriam Webster, the term “harmonize” means “to bring into consonance or accord.”  But in Ehrlich world, the word has taken on an entirely new and different meaning.

In 2006, the Ehrlich campaign hired political hired gun Bo Harmon to be its campaign manager. Harmon was best known for running the rough and tumble Georgia senate campaign of Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who defeated wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran Max Cleland in a race that received national attention. Everyone expected that the Ehrlich-O’Malley race would be competitive, so bringing in a political pit bull like Harmon to run Ehrlich’s reelection bid seemed to make sense.

Over time, though, Harmon became an increasingly marginal figure in the campaign. The actual decision-making was made by gubernatorial aides Paul Schurick, Ed Miller, Chip DiPaula, and others who ran the campaign by remote control from Annapolis.

Bernie Marczyk, a junior member of Ehrlich’s gubernatorial staff, was sent to the campaign to serve as its Political Director.  Marczyk originally served as Ehrlich’s Capitol Hill receptionist, and was a special favorite of Communications Director Paul Schurick.  The campaign role of the Fred Flintstone-like Marczyk was to serve as Schurick’s eyes and ears as well as his man on the ground.  

During his tenure, the wisdom of many of Marczyk’s personal decisions was questioned. These include:

  • Angering a room crowded with Western Maryland voters by arrogantly and unpersuasively lecturing them about the alleged difference between taxes and fee increases;
  • Intervening in a contested Carroll County delegate race by persuading Bob Ehrlich to tape a robocall message in support of the incumbent over a long-time Ehrlich supporter– a move that resulted in the resignation of Ehrlich’s entire Carroll County campaign staff;
  • Refusing an opportunity to wage a cost-effective door-to-door effort on behalf of Bob Ehrlich and other Republican candidates, alienating a national Young Republican organization while requiring others to step forward and fund this no-brainer of an idea out of their own pockets;
  • Implementing the doomed “Where else are they going to go” campaign strategy which focused on na├»ve outreach efforts to strong Democratic constituencies while ignoring GOP base voters (GOP turnout dipped five percent in 2006 compared to 2002 as a result).
But when Ehrlich lost, Marczyk largely sidestepped the blame for these missteps. Instead, the whispering campaign focused on the campaign manager of record: Bo Harmon.  Despite having no autonomy whatsoever, Harmon shouldered most of the blame for the loss – or at least the portion not attributed to George W. Bush.

Bo Harmon left Maryland years ago – but the practice of harmonizing others with unearned blame continues.

When Ehrlich announced his bid for reelection in April, Marczyk was again installed in the Political Director’s role by his friend and patron, Paul Schurick. Sources tell me that Marczyk’s effectiveness has been questioned because of his inability to boost turnout among Ehrlich supporters during the primary election.

True to form, Marczyk is quick to find blame anywhere but in his own ample lap. This time, my tipster tells me, the intended victim of harmonizing is Marczyk’s subordinate, Field Director Chris Cavey.

Cavey is a long-time Baltimore County Central Committee member finishing up a stint as party chairman. He is a seasoned grass-roots campaign organizer well-respected by Republicans across the state. In anyplace but the bizarro world that is Team Ehrlich, Marczyk would be reporting to Cavey, rather than the other way around.  

By contrast, Marczyk is friends with Paul Schurick, and went to Princeton and played football just like Bob Ehrlich did. Do these qualifications add up to a successful Political Director? As far as I'm concerned, they yabba dabba don't.

When the blame game starts even before the election occurs, that’s usually not a good sign. Please, no more harmonizing, guys. Protecting your friends – or yourselves – at the expense of the candidate isn’t the point of the game. Stop the excuses and blame shifting. Just win this time.  And, if that means sending Bernie Marczyk to another assignment in Bethesda, or even back to Bedrock, so be it.

The RGA Rallies Behind Bob Ehrlich

Sources tell me that the Ehrlich campaign has reached an agreement with the Republican Governors Association (RGA) that secures the organization’s active support for Ehrlich during the gubernatorial campaign.

The Ehrlich campaign first reached out to the RGA during the summer, but was initially rebuffed because Ehrlich had a primary opponent. Ehrlich then appealed directly to RGA Chairman Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) through a personal cold call, but I’m told that particular conversation did not go very well.

Anyway, the RGA has now agreed to make a major TV ad buy during the campaign. The size of that ad buy would be dependent upon the Ehrlich campaign’s ability to persuade donors to give money directly to the RGA itself.  The RGA, not the Ehrlich campaign, will determine all content for the ads. Further, I was told by someone with ties to the Ehrlich campaign that, in exchange for the RGA's support, Ehrlich may endorse Barbour's expected bid for president in 2012.

One of the fundraising obstacles that the Ehrlich campaign has encountered is the unwillingness of some major donors to alienate Governor O’Malley by writing big checks for Ehrlich. The RGA gives donors another, less public avenue through which to contribute.

Ehrlich's 2nd TV Ad Debuts Today

Bob Ehrlich’s new campaign ad debuted today.

Overall, I like it. It’s positive, well-produced and forward-looking. To date, the Ehrlich campaign has seemed more preoccupied with bashing Governor O’Malley or touting past accomplishments such as the “flush tax.” This is the first time they’ve attempted to articulate a positive vision of the future during this election cycle. And, it hits the only issue that matters this year: jobs and the economy.

As John Wagner reports in The Washington Post, substantively there’s not a lot in Ehrlich’s “Roadmap” that constitutes new ideas or proposals.  It reminds me of the “101 Excellent Ideas for Maryland” document Ehrlich touted in 2002. That was a brainchild of Ehrlich campaign honcho Paul Schurick, and I suspect the “Roadmap” is, too.  Both constitute a repackaging of previously touted ideas. But few people will actually realize that, so it is probably a useful exercise.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Order Of Crow For The Pundit, Please

I pride myself on being a pretty good political handicapper. This year, I correctly predicted the winners in every race in which I made a pick.

That is, all except for one.

Not long ago I predicted that conservative lawyer Jim Rutledge would beat moderate pathologist turned politician Eric Wargotz in the GOP primary for U. S. Senate. Dr. Wargotz prevailed by a margin of 39 percent to 31 percent.

While I like to be right in my predictions, I’m glad Dr. Wargotz won. As I indicated in my earlier blog posting, I think he will be a stronger challenger to Senator Mikulski. He’s a moderate in a moderate-friendly state, and has the resources needed to wage a credible race.

Despite the conservative nature of the GOP primary electorate, Dr. Wargotz won probably because he managed to build a buzz about himself, partially due to his “Political Insidersaurus” TV ad. Now, I must admit I thought the ad was goofy when I first saw it. But that was the key to its appeal. It definitely got people talking, and Wargotz succeeded in riding that wave right through the primary.

So, congratulations on your hard-earned victory, Dr. Wargotz. I know you’ll wage a spirited fight against Senator Mikulski, and might even do better than her previous opponents did. I’d love to catch up with you sometime. Given our past telephone-related issues, however, perhaps we should stick to email. At least for starters.

What To Make of Murphy's Showing

The question many people in political circles have been debating for the past few weeks now has an answer: 24.

That’s the statewide percentage of the primary vote Brian Murphy attracted in his challenge to former Governor Bob Ehrlich. Guessing Murphy’s percentage of the vote has been a popular parlor game among politicos like me. Leading up to the election, I heard numbers ranging from 11 percent (this was the number Team Ehrlich was allegedly circulating) up to 35 percent (Blair Lee suggested this in a recent column, although I think his motivations were somewhat Machiavellian).

For the record, I predicted he'd get 22 percent, and am reasonably satisfied by the fact that I came close to the mark.

Murphy’s strongest performance was in Western Maryland and Allegany and Prince George’s counties, where he broke 30 percent of the vote.  His poorest showing was in Baltimore and Harford counties – the nucleus of Ehrlich’s old congressional district – where he only got 18 percent.

I think Murphy’s performance constitutes a mixed bag for Ehrlich, as there are both positive and negative aspects of it to report.

The good news is that Ehrlich – the personification of an establishment Republican – prevailed overwhelmingly in a year where Tea Party forces took out another establishment Republican in neighboring Delaware. Congressman Mike Castle, a former governor and the state’s at-large congressman, lost his U. S. Senate bid to another Sarah Palin-sanctioned candidate. From a spin perspective, Ehrlich’s solid victory juxtaposes nicely with Castle’s loss.

Also good news for Ehrlich is the fact that Murphy met, but did not exceed, expectations. Most objective politicos I have talked to conceded that Murphy was likely to break 20 percent. Everyone remembers the “Fustero Effect” in 2002, when Kathleen Townsend was embarrassed by a no-name candidate who won 20 percent in the Democratic primary despite not waging any sort of campaign. Well, Brian Murphy did wage a spirited if low-budget campaign, and even managed to win Sarah Palin’s support. Still, he barely managed to improve over Fustero’s performance. The lack of any real surprise gives pundits less to talk about.

The bad news for Ehrlich, of course, is the fact that almost one in four primary voters chose to vote for someone else. This should give Team Ehrlich pause, especially given the fact that Ehrlich is such a known commodity. People knew exactly who they were voting for, and who they were voting against.

Moving forward, the Ehrlich campaign would be wise to engage these voters in an attempt to win back their active support. Simply assuming that they will climb back on the Ehrlich bandwagon in November because – to paraphrase Bernie Marczyk, Ehrlich’s political director – they have nowhere else to go would be foolhardy.

Republican primary voters are finicky creatures.  Sometimes, they will refuse to vote for a candidate they deem to be ideologically impure. We witnessed this in 1998, when Ellen Sauerbrey ran to the center in order to broaden her appeal. After the election, Bob Ehrlich himself showed me polling data which showed that many conservatives were alienated by Sauerbrey’s attempts at political moderation. So many chose not to vote at all, even though sitting out the election effectively helped reelect the unpopular Parris Glendening.

It will be interesting to see if Team Ehrlich treats the Murphy phenomenon as a problem to be fixed, or an aberration to be ignored. To date, they have run a classic coronation campaign. But the political landscape of 2010 requires them to adapt to new realities. Yesterday’s playbook probably won’t work this time.  And if you don’t believe me, just ask Ellen Sauerbrey.