June 20, 2006


Ehrlich to Rise?: Don't count on a big Democratic year in Maryland. (BRENDAN MINITER, June 20, 2006, Opinion Journal)

If this is going to be a watershed year for Democrats, there is little sign of it here, in the heart of one of the bluest states in the country. Only four other states handed Sen. John Kerry wider margins of victory two years ago, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1.

Nonetheless, four years after becoming the Old Line State's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew became vice president in 1969, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is in a strong position to win re-election this fall. He's raising plenty of money (including $1 million in one night at a fundraiser headlined by President Bush), is quietly cheered on by middle-of-the-road Democrats, and enjoys surprisingly high approval ratings. His approval rating has reached as high as 67%, and at the end of the Legislature's regular session in April--when ratings are typically at low ebb--he was polling at 55%. [...]

[T]he state's largest newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, has been engaged in a protracted fight with the governor. Its opening shot came during the 2002 campaign, when Mr. Ehrlich tapped Michael Steele, who is black, as his running mate. The Sun editorialized that Mr. Steele "brings little to the team but the color of his skin." That remark and a list of errors (including some 80 instances of misspelling the governor's name) spurred Gov. Ehrlich to instruct his administration not to talk to two Sun reporters. The paper sued, claiming its free speech rights were being violated, but was forced to drop its suit after losing in every court that heard the case.

Last year the governor set up a Halloween display on the front lawn of the executive mansion and he was blasted for that too. Sun columnist Laura Vozzella scoffed at the large inflatable jack-o-lantern and other ornaments, calling them "a little, well, Arbutus"--a dig at the governor's blue-collar hometown. Mr. Ehrlich has also been grilled by the media on why he supports defining marriage as between a man and a woman and why he put "Merry Christmas" on his Christmas cards.

It's a safe bet that no one at the Sun appreciates how politically helpful have been Mr. Ehrlich's defense of marriage and Christmas, his working-class background and his choice of a popular African-American as lieutenant governor--though clearly Mr. Ehrlich understands how helpful it has been to use the Legislature and the media as a foil. He has a framed picture of that inflatable jack-o-lantern on the wall inside the governor's mansion. In it he's standing next to two Democrats who understand how to win elections, Virginia's former governor Mark Warner and Washington's Mayor Anthony Williams. All three of them are giving the "Arbutus" jack-o-lantern the thumbs up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 20, 2006 5:14 PM

My second home state (1965-1985). Now with substantial Asian and Hispanic populations. And a large Black middle class which has learned to think independently.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 20, 2006 7:55 PM