Ehrlich Seeks 5 Debates With O'Malley

O'Malley Holds a Big Cash Advantage in Maryland Rematch

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    Bob Ehrlich vs. Martin O'Malley

    Former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich is trying to reclaim his old job, and on Thursday he called for five debates with the man who'd grabbed it from him.

    Ehrlich wants two television and three radio face-offs with Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley. While the O’Malley camp publicly says it will make no commitments until after the Republican primary Sept. 14, the Baltimore Sun says negotiations are underway. Although debates are a certainty, the format is not: Ehrlich prefers more casual, unmoderated debates, while O’Malley seeks a more controlled, traditional format.

    O’Malley’s caution is understandable. Though polls show an extremely tight race, and though the national momentum is with the GOP, O’Malley has a significant cash advantage. Both candidates have raised a bit more than $3 million since January, and "Ehrlich insiders" told the Washington Examiner that their man topped fundraising goals. But O’Malley, who has been prepping for a reelection run for four years, already had a lot in the bank.

    In January, O'Malley had $5.7 million on hand, while Ehrlich, who had not yet entered the race, had just more than $150,000. O’Malley said Wednesday that he now has $6.7 million left to spend, even after running TV ads over the past few months.

    Ehrlich, drawing on bitter experience, points out that he raised more than O’Malley four years ago, but still lost. At this point in 2006, Ehrlich had nearly $9 million in the bank, while O’Malley had just $5 million.

    Before he can focus on his once and future foe, however, Ehrlich must overcome a challenge from the right in that September primary. Brian Murphy, a 33-year-old business investor from Montgomery County, is as close as liberal Maryland gets to a "Tea Party" candidate. He had been struggling along with little attention -- most polls did not even include his name as an option -- until Sarah Palin endorsed him in early August.

    While Palin’s action "prompted plenty of head-scratching in Maryland political circles," as the Washington Post put it, it has boosted the little-known Murphy.

    Ehrlich supporters, meanwhile, say Palin’s intervention on Murphy’s behalf could actually help Ehrlich, since it will make Ehrlich seem more moderate in a state where Democrats have an overwhelming advantage in voter registration.

    But it is not clear what, if anything, Palin will actually do for Murphy. She has made no commitment to campaign for him in person, and had not actually spoken directly with Murphy when she announced her support on her Facebook page.

    Ex-state delegate Carmen Amedori, who was briefly Murphy’s running mate before dropping out, told the Washington Post that she thought Murphy would get about 20 percent of the primary before the endorsement, and that Palin’s backing might boost him as high as 28 percent – which would still be a landslide loss to Ehrlich.


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