The Campaign Spot

The Case for Ehrlich, and Against O’Malley, Is All Around Maryland

St. Mary’s College political-science professor Todd Eberly looks at Maryland’s political history and voter-registration numbers and concludes:

There is no question but that Bob Ehrlich would face a steep climb back to Annapolis, he would likely need to ride a national wave similar those in 1994 and 2002. In addition, he would need to overcome the significant registration disadvantage among Republicans statewide, or work to reverse the trend over the next 10 months. He could also hope that many of the newly registered Democrats were motivated by the drama of the 2008 Democratic primary battle and subsequent presidential election and that the Democratic Party’s registration advantage is somewhat overstated. Democratic Party registration swelled in Virginia and New Jersey in 2008 as well, but this did not translate into any appreciable party advantage in the 2009 gubernatorial elections. Democratic Party registration in Maryland grew at a rate of about 2.5% between 1994 and 1998, then by 5% between 1998 and 2002, before swelling to 11% prior to the 2006 gubernatorial and 2008 presidential elections. That excess growth may overstate the Democrats’ true advantage in the state by as many as 200,000 voters. If one were to factor that into the models presented in Table Three then Ehrlich would win under either a 1994 or 2002 scenario by a margin similar to his 2002 victory over Townsend.

Even with the challenges he’ll face, 2010 will likely present his best chance at reclaiming his old job. If Ehrlich waited until 2014 he’d risk that it would be a less hospitable year than 2010. If a Republican is elected president in 2012 then history tells us that 2014 would be a bad year for Republicans. If Obama or another Democrat is elected in 2012, then 2014 may well be a good year for the GOP, but in Maryland Ehrlich would have been out of public office for 8 years and could no longer assume the position of presumptive frontrunner for the nomination. Ehrlich would face much the same challenge if he were to decide to pursue one of Maryland’s Senate seats. Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski is up for re-election in 2010, but nothing less than a GOP tsunami would defeat her. Ehrlich’s next chance would be 2012 when the seat held by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin would be on the ballot – but President Obama would be on the ballot as well in a state that he carried by a margin of 62% to 37%. Anything approaching that margin would likely have some down-ballot coattails and sink any challenge to Cardin or another Democrat.

In the end, for all the challenges and difficulties that he’ll face, 2010 presents Ehrlich with his best chance for reclaiming the governorship. For Ehrlich, it’s now or never. And he has decided that it’s now.

I wonder if Ehrlich can deploy a bit of what worked for Chris Christie in New Jersey — i.e., “If you want to change Annapolis, you have to change governors.” As much as Maryland voters may instinctively lean to the Democrats, they ought to be able to see when state-government spending is out of control, and when an ever-growing tax burden is crushing the state’s economy.

The unemployment rate is 7.7 percent statewide, 11.7 in Baltimore, and 11.9 in Hagerstown. The much touted “millionaire’s tax” brought in less revenue than expected (surprise!) and now the millionaires are running away. They’re discussing raising the state’s tax on gasoline (currently 23.5 cents per gallon) and a new “Amazon tax” on purchases made from out-of-state retailers. The Baltimore Sun points out the unavoidable:

Mandatory spending formulas, pensions and post-retirement health benefits for state workers are all expected to increase spending far faster than tax revenues rebound, and the expiration of federal stimulus funds next year will leave a large hole in the budget.

Ehrlich can, and should, run on a theme of the dangers of one-party government. If the people of Maryland ignore the evidence before them, well . . . they’ll deserve what they get.

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