Robert Ehrlich — not the no-hoper the Washington Post hopes he is

Robert Ehrlich, Maryland’s former Republican governor, is running this year against the man who defeated him in 2006, Gov. Martin O’Malley. Any Republican who runs a state-wide race in Maryland faces an uphill battle, but Ehrlich has several advantages. First, he was a reasonably popular governor, with a positive approval rating. He lost not because he was considered a bad governor, but because 2006 was a bad year for Republicans and an impossible one for Republicans in Maryland. Second, 2010 is shaping up as a good year for Republicans generally.
Further evidence that Ehrlich has a shot at winning comes from this Washington Post article about his campaign. The article itself suggests that Ehrlich is something of a no-hoper. It portrays him as a stale, lethargic retread who has been unable to jump start his campaign. But the fact that the Post is going after Ehrlich at all in April indicates to me that it takes his candidacy seriously. Post reporters have a tradition of trying to undermine Republican candidates in local elections. Most recently, they attempted to ruin Robert McDonnell’s chances in Virginia through reports about a 20-year old paper he wrote as a graduate student.
One would expect any good-faith assessment of a candidate’s prospects to include poll data. And it happens that there is fresh data from Rasmussen regarding the Ehrlich-O’Malley race. It shows Ehrlich trailing O’Malley by only 47-44 (in February, O’Malley led by 49-43). Moreover, Ehrlich has a positive spread between those who view him very favorably (27 percent) and those who view him very unfavorably (18 percent). O’Malley’s spread is negative (22-24).
Unable to disparage the seriousness of Ehrlich’s campaign on any objective basis, Wagner resorts to anecdotes and impressions. Thus, he informs us that Ehrlich is surrounding himself with “many of the aides and other assorted characters who were with him during his four years in Annapolis” and that he is using the same “lines he has used often over the years.” He also suggests (based on “murmurs”) that Ehrlich lacks the “fire in the belly needed to win.” And he enlists a local political science prof to disparage Ehrlich’s chances of winning.
In sum, since it can’t paint Ehrlich as a racist (George Allen) or a women hater (McDonnell), the Post settles for making him out to be a loser who is just going through the motions. If the label sticks, it will hurt Ehrlich as he attempts to raise money and generate enthusiasm. But polling data doesn’t support the Post’s refrain (hence, I assume, its failure to mention any).
Inspired by the Rasmussen poll and the Post’s story, I decided today to contribute to the Ehrlich campaign.