I think it’s cool that Sarah Palin is endorsing candidates in Republican primaries all over the country. But I question some of her judgments and wonder how she reaches them.
Here in Maryland, for example, Palin has endorsed an obscure Republican candidate for governor named Brian Murphy. She finds him a “commonsense conservative” who “has the private sector experience that is so lacking in government today.”
Common sense and private sector experience are fine attributes. And I have no reason to doubt that Murphy possesses them both, though I’d be interested to know just how Palin, from her perch in Alaska, goes about assessing the “commonsense” of candidates throughout the land.
The problem is that, in my view (and I’ve lived in Maryland most of my life), Murphy has essentially zero chance of defeating our incumbent liberal governor, Martin O’Malley. By contrast, former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the overwhelming favorite to secure the Republican nomination, is running even with O’Malley in the polls. Thus, for those of us who wish to avoid a continuation of liberal state governance, Ehrlich is the obvious choice, unless Ehrlich himself is a liberal.
Ehrlich is no liberal. As governor, he balanced the budget, opposed tax increases, and enacted Maryland’s first charter schools law. And he vetoed the “Fair Share Health Care Bill” which required businesses with more that 10,000 employees in the state to either spend eight percent of payroll on employee health care, or pay that amount to a state health program for the uninsured. He also effectively ended the moratorium on executions that had been instituted by his predecessor.
Ehrlich similarly displayed his conservatism as a congressman. His lifetime ACU rating was 82 percent. And he is conservative enough for Virginia’s conservative governor, Robert McDonnell, to have endorsed him. McDonnell surely has a better vantage point from across the river in Virginia than Palin has from Alaska.
Ehrlich is not a perfect conservative, of course. If he were, he would never have been elected governor here, nor would he be in strong contention now.
But perfect conservatism has not been a prerequisite for Palin’s seal of approval this year. In Iowa, Palin endorsed Terry Branstad for governor over a conservative opponent. Yet, the Tea Party deemed Branstad unacceptable because, it said, he had “a history of raising taxes, [is] not a true conservative, and increased the size of government every year he held office.”
Perhaps if Maryland were holding an early presidential caucus in 2012, as Iowa is, Palin would have deemed Ehrlich a “commonsense conservative” worthy of her endorsement.
Ehrlich, though, is taking Palin’s endorsement of Murphy in stride. A campaign spokesman suggested that the endorsement will enhance Ehrlich’s standing among independents and moderate Democrats, without whose support neither he nor any Maryland Republican can win state office.
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