Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Post Endorses Ehrlich But Does It Matter?

The Washington Post, wrongly pilloried by Republicans as a Democratic organ somewhat to the left of Pravda, has endorsed Bob Ehrlich for as second term. I doubt that the editorial will save Ehrlich's flagging campaign. As I explain on Maryland Politics Watch, here's why:

(1) Unlike their endorsement of Democrat Ben Cardin for the Senate, it is hardly a ringing endorsement. It contains plenty of criticism of the incumbent:
There have been disappointments and dithering during Mr. Ehrlich's term as well, mostly of his own making. Relishing battle and cherishing his status as a besieged underdog, he picked fights needlessly, as in the childish blacklisting of two journalists from the Baltimore Sun. Likewise, his tiresome quarrels with the leaders of the General Assembly look more like clashes of puffed-up egos than hard legislative bargaining. Mr. Ehrlich could be a more effective governor if he applied himself more to the mechanics of governing and less to the skewering of his enemies on talk radio.
Hardly a description that inspires passion among voters.

(2) While ultimately plumping for another term for Ehrlich, the editorial ironically refutes the central theme of Gov. Ehrlich's campaign in its description of Mayor Martin O'Malley:
Mr. O'Malley, who has run a carefully scripted campaign for governor, has put his plentiful ambition to good use in one of the toughest big-city mayor's jobs in the nation. He made progress in stanching Baltimore's outflow of population, reviving some of its more blighted neighborhoods, reducing its level of violent crime, and adapting corporate methods of efficiency and accountability to the functions of government. Mr. O'Malley did not solve the problems of rampant crime and rough schools in Baltimore, but he put a dent in them.
Certainly not the picture of an incompetent mayor painted by Ehrlich. Although it fails to give the many Democrats who populate the Washington suburbs a burning reason to defect from their party and vote for Ehrlich, the Post has removed any real doubts about O'Malley's ability to do the job.

(3) Endorsements matter more when they are issued far out from the election, in down ballot races, and in primaries. The Post has not given Ehrlich all that much time to capitalize on the endorsement and it is hardly so strong that he would want to reprint it in its entirety and send it to voters. At most, I predict a few carefully snipped quotes.

Unlike in many races for local or state office, voters have enough information to form their own opinions in gubernatorial elections. In general elections, party also serves as a crucial cue which is utterly useless in primary contests and leads more to depend on newspaper and other endorsements.

(4) Maryland's swing voters are not concentrated in the counties where the Post's writ runs strong. Montgomery and Prince George's are not just lopsidedly Democratic, they are solidly so. Even in 2002, when support for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee was collapsing around the state, both counties remained strong Democratic bastions. If the Post had influence in the Baltimore suburbs, it would be an entirely different story.

(5) Ehrlich is just too far behind. Even if the Post helps him gain a point or two, it just isn't enough to make up his deficit. O'Malley led Ehrlich by an average of ten points in the last five polls. Incumbent governors who are ten points behind two weeks before the election are overwhelmingly headed for defeat.

Ehrlich may simply be a victim of President Bush's unpopularity or Maryland's Democratic nature reasserting itself rather than his own mediocrity and lack of accomplishment as Democrats claim. However, Ehrlich's millions of advertising have yet to put a dent in O'Malley's lead. It is hard to see the Post changing the fundamental dynamics of this campaign.


Blogger howie said...

I hope you're right about it not mattering. I keep fretting that the polls are missing something. I admit that I kind of agree with the Post on one thing; Martin had done little to persuade people to change governors.

If you believe that elections are like boxing matches, does the old rule that you have the knockout the champ apply? Martin is winning based on his natural advantages, it seems, but he hasn't ever made a case for Ehrlich's removal. Instead, he's allowed Bobby to make this race a referendum on his performance as Mayor of Baltimore.

To wrap up the cliche, Ehrlich has dictated the tempo of this fight. He's earned his "rematch". Even if O'Malley wins, Bob will be well poised to take him on again in four years if the new administration falters.

The Post endorsement reads as one of the weakest I've ever read, they endorse Ehrlich while praising O'Malley's job in Baltimore and pointing out many of Bobby's major flaws. The Post just loves the ICC and divided government too much to go with the challenger.

Still, that endorsement proves something I already knew. The Post has completely gone in the tank in the name of "balance", tossing its heritage completely

10/25/2006 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mdman said...

The Post endorsement does not help. I was shocked to see it, in fact. They must not like O'Malley for some reason. What would they have done if Duncan had been the nominee? They probably would have endorsed him. Let's just hope our advantages bring us over the finish line on this one. I imagine that the Sun will endorse Martin.

10/25/2006 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10/25/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

I would not count out the possibility of Ehrlich surprising people in Montgomery. Not saying it will happen, just that it's in the realm of the possible. There have been articles about Ehrlich's relative strength in MoCo's Jewish community, and anecdotal reports of much greater signage for Ehrlich (and a bit less for O'Malley) than was reflected in the 2002 general election and KKT.

Ehrlich cannot win Montgomery but he may be able to "survive" Montgomery. North of University Boulevard, even a Democratic Baltimore mayor has to make his case the retail way in Montgomery, and O'Malley's relative absence from MoCo (and also, stunningly, from Anne Arundel County) has not helped him.

Also, if Tony Brown is not, in fact, dead and buried somewhere off of Route 214 in Mitchellville, someone please let me know. I am a hard-core media addict and I cannot find him (or any recent speech by him) anywhere.

10/25/2006 11:33:00 AM  

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