Martin O’Malley takes the low road in Maryland

The race for governor of Maryland between incumbent Martin O’Malley (the Democrat) and his predecessor Robert Ehrlich is heating up. A few months ago, the Washington Post attempted to paint Ehrlich as a no-hoper who is just going through the motions of a campaign. But the polls tell a different tale, one in which the race may well be a dead heat.
O’Malley certainly understands that he’s in a horse race. Accordingly, he has launched a series of attack ads on Ehrlich that, according to the Post itself, “contain questionable claims.”
In one ad, O’Malley portrays Ehrlich as a lobbyist. As the Post points out, however, Ehrlich has never registered as a lobbyist and denies being one. O’Malley is relying on the fact that Ehrlich works for a law firm that engages in lobbying. But one does not become a lobbyist by association.
O’Malley also tries to pin the Gulf oil spill on Ehrlich. An ad called “Drill Baby Drill” states that Ehrlich voted to open new parts of the Gulf to drilling. This apparently is a reference to a vote for a 2001 measure which allowed only a fraction of the exploration President Bush wanted and that was passed almost unanimously, with support from every Maryland Democrat in the House.
The ad features Ehrlich using the phrase “drill baby drill.” But according to the Post, the O’Malley campaign grabbed this sound bite from a portion of Ehrlich’s call-in radio program in which Ehrlich talked about Michael Steele’s use of this slogan during the 2008 campaign.
The O’Malley campaign is also claiming that Ehrlich has challenged whether President Obama was born in the U.S. Here, according to the Post, O’Malley is taking out of context comments made by Ehrlich in response to a call to his radio show. In response to a caller, Ehrlich appears to agree that the question of when Obama would release his birth certificate is a relevant. But Ehrlich did not call on Obama to release them, nor did he espouse the “birther” position.
In running ads that even the Washington Post can’t quite stomach, O’Malley is relying on Ehrlich’s lack of the resources required to respond. The campaigns have not disclosed their current financial situations, but at the beginning of the year, O’Malley had close to $6 million. Ehrlich, who had about $150,000 at that time, is still thought to be millions behind O’Malley in the fundraiser race.
Those who would like to help reduce this imbalance in what looks like a competitive race can contribute to the Ehrlich campaign (as I have) here.


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