ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- While Republican candidates already are expressing interest in challenging Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley
next year, former GOP Gov. Robert Ehrlich is watching from the sidelines for now.
Nevertheless, the leading state Republican fundraiser is confident Maryland's first GOP governor in a generation will have a hard time keeping himself off the field.
"I think Bob Ehrlich is going to run," said Richard Hug, who keeps in touch with Ehrlich and his past supporters. "He just
doesn't know it yet."
Hug said Ehrlich hasn't given him a definitive answer, but he believes Ehrlich is "looking at the situation very hard."
"But you never know, and Bob certainly doesn't want to lose again, although he's very disappointed with the direction the state
of Maryland has gone," Hug added.
For now, Hug believes Ehrlich is scouting the political landscape at home and across state borders. His decision may be
influenced by how well GOP gubernatorial candidates fare this fall in races in Virginia and New Jersey, where Republicans have led in recent polls.
Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, said the former governor is comfortable waiting to make a decision and "taking the temperature in the state."
But the state's strong Democratic leanings are hard to overlook, and Fawell describes the overall situation like this: "What it
comes down to is: 'Can we win?'"
"The football player still runs in his veins," Fawell said of the former Princeton University linebacker. "He loves to compete. He loves to win, but he also doesn't run fools' errands."
At least two other Maryland Republicans are exploring bids against O'Malley.
Delegate Patrick McDonough, one of the General Assembly's most colorfully outspoken critics of O'Malley, has announced he's
considering a run.
During a 2007 special legislative session, McDonough quipped that O'Malley "apparently was kidnapped by gypsies" when he had
his first chance to take a stab at the state's budget deficit during his first legislative session as governor.
"Anybody can stick their hand in the cookie jar," McDonough said in response to $1.4 billion in tax increases resulting from
the special session.
However, McDonough said he'll step aside if Ehrlich commits to the race.
Mike Pappas, a Baltimore County attorney who is not widely known in the state, has announced he plans to seek the Republican
nomination to run against O'Malley.
O'Malley currently does not have any primary challengers for the Democratic nomination.