Maybe Ehrlich's not running

March 20, 2010

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. gave a speech Tuesday decrying the ways he thinks the state government makes Maryland bad for business. Counterintuitive though it may seem, this might not be a sign that the Republican is gearing up to run for his old job. It's the nature of his criticism that gives me pause.

I have generally been skeptical about whether Mr. Ehrlich would seek a rematch against Gov. Martin O'Malley, on the grounds that Mr. Ehrlich would not get in a race he wasn't pretty sure he could win. But polling has consistently shown Mr. O'Malley with a lead of 6 or more percentage points, no matter what was going on in the national political climate. Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. O'Malley are both known quantities to the voters, and it's always seemed to me that it would be a tall order for Mr. Ehrlich, without the advantages of incumbency, to win. That said, the longer he's waited to announce his intentions, the more I began to change my mind. At this point, after he's let the entire Republican field clear itself out for him, how could he not run?

That's why the fact that the former governor steered clear of criticizing his successor in his speech to the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce Tuesday is so odd. According to Julie Bykowicz's report of the speech, the governor argued that legislators in Annapolis don't understand small business, and as evidence he mentioned the state's short-lived computer services tax and the fact that Maryland has not lowered its corporate income tax to match the level in Virginia.

What's strange about that is that while Mr. O'Malley signed the computer service tax into law, it was not his idea, and he worked soon thereafter to repeal it. And in focusing on the corporate income tax, Mr. Ehrlich missed an opportunity to go after the governor on the sales tax and income tax, both of which play a much bigger role in Maryland's economy.

If this was a warm-up for a run against Mr. O'Malley, you'd think Mr. Ehrlich would have thrown in a few broadsides against a tax-and-spend governor (the inconvenient fact of record spending increases at the end of his own term notwithstanding). There are any number of spurious claims about the relative merits of Mr. O'Malley's fiscal stewardship of the state he could have thrown in, as he did throughout the 2006 campaign and has done on his weekly radio show.

Maybe he's just rusty, or maybe his candidacy isn't the sure thing everybody thinks.

Bolstering the questions, Mr. Ehrlich floated the idea that he might instead run against U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. Now that would be a fun race to watch.

-Andrew A. Green

Hate to be in his shoes. Would I want to inherit this mess, be it O'Malley's mess or simply the climate? Emphatic NO! But I assure you, when he announces, the "bump" makes this a neck and neck race!

Bob, I don't envy you, but we could certainly use your leadership.Augieboy

Ehrlich sat around and let the structural deficit spiral, then raised a boatload of taxes (as "user fees"). Now he sits there making big bucks and pontificating on radio about how bad things are.

I don't agree with some of O'Malley's tax decisions, but at least he had the guts to do something. It could be so much worse today if he hadn't.

Please let Ehrlich sit this one out. Can't stand the thought of more of his "sound executive decisions."Larry

Does it really matter if Ehrlich is Governor? The General Assembly is so stacked that no initiative with an "R" next to it will pass.M. Tully

Kendel Ehrlich for Md. governor in 2010!Mr. Girodano

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