Friday, January 27, 2006

Gov. Ehrlich's State of the State Address was Political Tool

from The League: Reassembled

Gov. Ehrlich used his annual State of the State address today to make one thing clear: Maryland's a better place than it was in 2003. And hey, wasn't that the year the Governor took office? Why yes, it was. And the state's fortunes took a turn for the better that year? Sure did. Coincidence? Of course not.

And Ehrlich spent half an hour making damn well sure that everyone in the hall, from the legislators to the media to Democratic gubernatorial candidates Mayor O'Malley and MoCo Executive Doug Duncan, understood that the improvements were not coincidental but the direct results of his policies. He even called himself a "change agent."

The Governor listed programs that have led to improvements in five important policy areas: budget, education, health and environment, public safety and commerce. He listed many of his administration's proposals to make sure it was quite clear that Gov. Ehrlich deserves the credit for these improvements (ah ha! so that's the point he was trying to drive home).

For example, he noted that "we've changed Maryland" in regards to public safety by implementing many of his proposals, including "establishing the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security," "announcing a timetable to close the infamous Hickey School and reached a settlement with the federal government regarding systemic reforms to our juvenile justice system, awarding GOCCP grants worth nearly $123 million across the State, and enacting new initiatives related to witness intimidation, police officer safety, and teen driving."

Of course, whether or not the state is in better shape now than in 2003 is up for debate. And, if that's taken as a given, there's a question as to whether Ehrlich's policies are responsible for these improved fortunes or are even good ideas in the first place (for example, although closing the dysfunctional Hickey was applauded by juvenile advocates, the state has not come up with a good plan for relocating many of the former inmates).

But those quibbles are beside the point. Cause this speech was about politics. And it is smart politics.

In his last State of the State address before facing re-election, Ehrlich posed a simple question to voters: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" And he answered it for them: "Yes."

The strategy was used to great effect by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential campaign. Reagan, who was challenging incumbent Jimmy Carter, asked Americans to compare the states of the country and of their lives with the same in 1976. "The answer, at a time of high unemployment, staggering inflation, spiraling energy prices, and hostages in Tehran, was an obvious - and devastating - no."

Ehrlich's banking on voters answering "Yes, Maryland is a better state." And he's providing them with all the info they need to reach that conclusion. No matter how great of a campaign is run by his Democratic opponent, the 2004 gubernatorial race is going to be a referendum on Ehrlich's handling of the state. According to the most recent poll, 53% of Marylanders approve of the Governor's performance. If he wants to win in 2006, he needs to spend the next 9 and a half months working to move that number up. The State of the State address was a smart mechanism for doing so, but he's got more work cut out for him.

from The League: Reassembled

A transcript of Gov. Ehrlich's 2006 State of the State address is available from his press office and an audio recording is complements of The Sun.

from The League: Reassembled

Check out mainstream press coverage of the address:
Baltimore Sun
Washington Post
Baltimore Business Journal

The Gazette
Washington Times

WBAL Radio

from The League: Reassembled


Blogger InsiderOut said...

A bi-partisan state rocks! Go Ehrlich!

1/27/2006 09:57:00 PM  

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