O’Malley initially came out with a couple of negative radio ads trying to paint Ehrlich very early out of the box as distorting his past record; they had a Fantasy Land theme. Those have stopped now, and O’Malley’s TV ads have all been positive since then. Ehrlich has not aired a single ad on radio or TV yet, so it will be interesting to see what he does.
The other component of this is that both of them have all sorts of videos that they’re putting up on Facebook and YouTube. It’s been a mixed bag; there have been some negative ones on both sides. I think everyone has the expectation that it’s going to be pretty nasty before it’s over, but it certainly hasn’t gotten anywhere close to the point it was at four years ago.
In the Senate race, despite eight or so challengers, incumbent Democrat Barbara Mikulski seems like a shoo-in for the primary and general election.
That’s certainly the conventional wisdom. The Republican field against her is so large and the primary in Maryland is so late that it makes it harder for any one Republican candidate to get traction. In theory, you could have a Scott Brown scenario where one of them comes from nowhere and beats her. But it’s hard to know at this point who’s going to win the primary, and, whoever wins is certainly not going to be a household name at that point to Maryland voters. They’re going to have a lot of work to do in a short period of time.
Is Mikulski taking the field of challengers seriously?
Every indication is that she’s taking it seriously; she is well aware of what’s happened to some of her colleagues. But she remains the most popular elected official in Maryland, so the tide would have to rise pretty high to sweep her out.
How has she been able to sustain her level of popularity while her colleagues in other states have seen their approval ratings dive?
The blue nature of the state contributes to it. Though, she has also gained over the years a solid record for constituent service and has been very skillful at positioning herself as a fighter for the little guy. In the 2002 governor’s race, a lot of the Democrats, through the Democratic candidates, lost blue collar Democrats. Mikulski has been more successful retaining and connecting with them.
What effect does Maryland’s proximity to D.C. have on the 2010 race?
There is some belief that, given the large number of federal employees and people whose livelihoods are connected to the federal government, there isn’t as much of the anger at the federal government driving some of the results we’re seeing in other states. The Tea Party movement really hasn’t taken root in Maryland to the degree that it has in some other states. I think some of that probably does have to do with the relatively large number of people who either work for or have some connection to the federal government.
How have national outlets done in covering the Maryland race so far?
I don’t recall seeing anything that struck me as completely out of whack. Plus, I think that there are so many other competitive races this year that it’s probably hard to devote too much attention to a race in Maryland. If the Republican wins in Maryland then it’s certainly going to be a big night for Republicans around the country.
One aspect that has gotten some play, though, is the number of former governors who are now seeking their jobs back, and Ehrlich fits into that category—he’s fallen into a number of those pieces.
Have the candidates been handling the media any differently this election cycle?
Certainly not among the leading candidates in Maryland. Both of the guys in the governor’s race are such known quantities, so well known among the political class in Maryland, that they haven’t done too much differently. Ehrlich is very accessible and will take questions from reporters until, as he says, he’s defeated us and we can’t think of anything else.