To capitalize, though, the GOP will likely have to remain unified and avoid a heated primary of its own. Given the number of Republican candidates already eyeing the seat, that will be a tall order.
"They can hope for a disorganized Democratic Party and fuel that dissension," said Thomas F. Schaller, a nationally recognized expert on presidential politics who teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and contributes to the op-ed page of The Baltimore Sun. Doing so, he said, would "put them in a position to be there like a trapeze to catch the governor's race if it drops."
Electing a governor in two years would give state Republicans a big boost to win Maryland for a GOP presidential nominee in four.
But so far this year, the party has not shown it is disciplined enough to clear the field for a favored candidate — even when that candidate is an incumbent. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, the vulnerable congressman from Maryland's 6th District, faced two Republican state lawmakers in the April primary.
Scott, meanwhile, lost her bid to be the party's national committeewoman at the GOP state convention in April. She was beaten by insurgent candidate Nicolee Ambrose.
Win down ballot
Little would give the state party a bigger jolt of energy than pulling off an upset on the congressional level this year, particularly in the marquee 6th District.
Bartlett, a 10-term incumbent who hasn't faced a difficult race in years, is being outgunned by Democratic challenger John Delaney after his district was redrawn by lawmakers in Annapolis. Turning that tide would not only be a momentum-builder for the party, it would also free up a better offense for other GOP candidates.
"What makes us relevant is giving them a very hard fight in the House and the Senate," said Del. Michael D. Smigiel, an Eastern Shore Republican.
In fact, Republican candidates don't necessarily have to win to have an impact beyond the state's borders. Raising enough money to pose a threat would pressure Democratic incumbents such as Sen. Ben Cardin and Baltimore County Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger to hold on to their campaign funds rather than funneling that money to at-risk incumbents in other parts of the country.
So far, though, it hasn't happened.
"It's important that we do the best we can in those congressional races so that those candidates can't give help to Obama or other candidates — we want to make sure they spend their money here," said state Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Howard County Republican. "It's bigger than just the presidential race."